Machine Tool "Chopper Project" Starts this Fall

This fall, the ACTC Chopper Project will be part of the Machine Tool Technology Program at Ashland Community amp; Technical College.

Students will take a used motorcycle and transform it into a customized chopper like those featured in current television shows and magazines.

The reason we decided to take on this project is to show how machine tool technicians are involved in our everyday lives, said Dan Pancake, program coordinator. Nearly every finished metal part must pass through the hands of a machinist at some point.

The chopper idea came from industry representatives on the programs advisory committee at a meeting in May.

David Allen from McSweeney Mill and Mine, Larry Boley of Flowserve Inc., Danny Blagg of Industrial Machine amp; Fabrication Inc., and Karl Lindsey of ESMII Inc. suggested the project to create awareness of the program among potential students and the community at large.

We will take a salvage bike and strip all the usable parts from it and put it on a new or revised frame, Pancake said. We will design and machine as many parts for this as possible, which will help students see the applications of many of the skills they are learning in the program.

The skills involved are many, according to Pancake. Students will use all tools available including mills, lathes, drill presses, and saws.

The CNC (computer numerical control) mills, lathes and wire EDM machines will be most helpful in manufacturing or revising some parts for this one-of-a-kind machine. CAD /CAM systems, such as Mastercam and DP Esprit, will be used to design and program replacement parts.

We will also reach out to other ACTC programs as well as the local secondary vocational schools to involve as many of their skills as possible, Pancake said.

All machine tool fields require the same basic instruction in the use of manual and CNC machine tools and CNC programming. The chopper project will showcase one area of expertise in the machine tool field a specialty field closely related to automotive machining.

We can and have made parts for many different types of projects such as go-carts, 4-wheelers, tractor and/or automotive parts, Pancake said. We can make an unlimited variety of items from any kind of machinable material like various metals and even plastic.

Almost every industrial product in the world contains metal parts or is manufactured by machines made of metal parts - from jet engines to guitars to washing machines. Making these parts is the work of machine tool technicians.

Machine tool technology is a much needed skill, Pancake said. Retiring baby boomers are making a variety of high paying, rewarding jobs available to highly trained technicians.

Although parts are increasingly being made with CNC machines, manually operated saws, drills, lathes and mills are still important. Students in the ACTC program learn basic skills for operating both types of equipment.

"CNC technology has become so complex that it cannot be learned on the job without adequate educational preparation, Pancake said. Students learn the latest technologies in the laboratory/classroom at the Technology Drive Campus. The state-of-the-art machines range in price from $20,000 to $150,000 each.

One reason our students are hired as soon as they graduate is that they have the background to use expensive equipment effectively and efficiently," he added. Hands-on training is an essential aspect of the program.

Machine tool students regularly take tours of businesses that employ ACTC graduates. They can see what type of work is available and what they might be doing after finishing the program. The tours also give them the opportunity to meet potential employers.

"We have had good success employing students and graduates from ACTC and will continue to consider them for future job openings," said Karl L. Lindsey, Technical Specialist with ESMII Inc., a machine and fabrication job shop.

For specialized skills, students can choose a CNC Machinist Apprentice or Machine Shop Apprentice diploma or a certificate in Exploratory Machining, Machine Operator I or Machine Operator II.

"We are looking for students who really enjoy making things and take pride in what they do," Pancake said. "Success in the field requires a desire to work with your hands, moderate math skills, the ability to communicate and good hand-eye coordination."

Contrary to what many people think, there are still good jobs available in the area and there are still jobs in this country where people make products from scratch, Pancake said. Machine tool technology is a field where people can take pride in what they create each day.

For more information on starting Machine Tool classes this fall, contact Professor Pancake at 606-326-2471 or 800-928-4256 ext. 62471 or email: danny.pancake@kctcs.edu.