Delcam's FeatureCAM Helps Students Make Guitars in 15 Hours

The Invention Factory and Makery in Manoa, Hawaii, used Delcam's FeatureCAM feature-based CAM system as part of a project to train 24 students to design and build their own Hawaiian electric steel guitars. The software enabled the students to produce CNC programs to make almost every part in the instrument.

"FeatureCAM reduced the time required to program a typical part from a day with our previous software to a few minutes," said Neil Scott, Director of the Invention Factory and Makery. "The result was that our students were able to design and build their own electric guitar from scratch in only 15 hours."

The limited depth and breadth of Hawaii's workforce opportunities continue to remain major reasons why start-up companies fail to grow, local students leave for the mainland, and a significant third industry behind tourism and defence has yet to appear. The concept of the Invention Factory and Makery is to provide an environment in which high-school and middle-school students can conceive an invention and actually make it. By learning to design and build things, students develop the skills needed to work in home-grown industries as entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, machine operators and CNC programmers.

"The biggest obstacle we had to overcome in developing the curriculum was to simplify the design and programming process," said Instructor Raemi Shibata. "The software that we used in the past required so much knowledge that it was bewildering. How could we teach the kids when we were having trouble understanding it ourselves?"

"FeatureCAM provides the ability to automatically recognise features such as holes, slots, pockets and bosses in CAD models," explained Mr. Scott. "This means that students don't have to deal with each individual surface but can program a much smaller number of features instead. We train the students to import the model and use feature recognition so that the software automatically recognises and organises the features in the part. The students then review the list of features identified by the software and make any changes they wish."

After the students are satisfied with the list of features, the next step is assigning machining operations to each one. With help from the software, the students created machining operations by picking tools, and speeds and feeds for creating particular features. When making a typical part, there are often many features that are duplicated, so the machining operation to make these features only needs to be defined once. After that, it can be copied to similar areas of the design.

After finishing the program, students viewed a simulated version on the computer screen. They check this to be sure the part is made exactly as intended and that the tools stay clear of the machine and fixtures. The program is then passed to the CNC machine and the parts for the guitars completed.

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