By Marty Key, Consultant/Trainer at RJG
At RJG, we strive to educate as many students as possible—from children to seasoned professionals. We recently saw an opportunity to fill one of our own needs while providing a learning opportunity to students at Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC) in Winston Salem, NC.
We recently received 8 rapid unit inserts from our lab partner Progressive Components, a mold componentry company serving the injection molding industry. That meant we had to get some ideas for the parts we wanted the molds to produce, but we wanted them to be unique conversation pieces that our students could develop processes on and enjoy bringing home. That’s where the Advanced Manufacturing students at FTCC came in.
FTCC recently opened a new state-of-the-art manufacturing education facility, The Center for Advanced Manufacturing, in October 2017. We looked at the center’s capabilities online along with course offerings and thought they may be a great solution for our part design concepts. The new facility is approximately 30,000 square feet and has 2 computer aided design and drafting labs, a 3D printing lab housing 7 3D printers, a 25-bay welding lab, and a computer integrated machining lab.
We reached out to David Dinkins, the Advanced Manufacturing Department Chair at FTCC, to see if the students in the Advanced Manufacturing Program would be interested in helping with concepts for part designs. David was very open to the idea and invited RJG to the center for a tour and to discuss the opportunity.
Upon entering the facility, we were amazed by the unlimited capabilities it held. It was a great center for students to learn with real-world manufacturing methods. We were thrilled to watch students put advanced knowledge of 5S organization skills to use. It was great to see that they are incorporating lean manufacturing processes into the curriculum—it will make well-rounded students who are prepared for today’s manufacturing environment.
FTCC has worked hard to establish itself as a great resource and partner with local businesses. Their programs address the needs of various companies, like Deere Hitachi and Siemens. The students are exposed to a wide variety of different manufacturing methods, creating well-rounded employees for the future.
The facility is definitely advanced. David showed us the computer labs, classrooms, computer integrated machining, and the additive manufacturing lab. We were amazed by the detail that the printers were able to achieve and the partnerships FTCC had generated from the additive manufacturing labs. They had even partnered with a local hospital to model bone structure before surgeries.
After touring the facility and discussing the proposed part design project, we all agreed to present it to the students. Since the Advanced Manufacturing Program touches on various forms of manufacturing, we decided to do a presentation on injection molding to the students. We focused on a general overview of the injection molding equipment and process as it relates to the 4 plastic variables that affect plastic processing and performance. We also addressed very generic rules for plastic part and mold design that we thought the students would find relevant when creating their part designs.
After getting their interest and commitment, we decided to make the project as real world as possible. We agreed upon a 3-week deadline to have the designs complete. We gave the students design parameters that they must adhere to and asked them to treat us like the customer and know that they will not always have the answer. Building the relationship with customers and coworkers to resolve issues is essential in today’s workforce. We wanted them to know that reaching out to the customer or coworker is not a bad thing, but that it is encouraged and ensures you are meeting their expectations.
We waited the 3 weeks and fielded a few questions along the way. At the deadline, we returned to FTCC. The students had divided themselves into 3 groups to create 4 different designs they felt would be useful and intriguing to other students.
The first idea was a key/card holder. The 2-piece part holds keys and small discount and loyalty cards. It allows the keys to be stackable and fit neatly into a pocket.
The second design featured a small hammer which also functioned as a bottle opener. The head of the hammer is recessed to open metal bottle caps, and the claw of the hammer can be used open pop top cans.
The final team decided to do 2 different designs. The first was a pyramid that could be used as a paperweight on a desk top. This design was very interesting because only a few months before, RJG had developed a mold with Progressive Components and Ameritech Tool and Die that highly resembled the students’ design. Their other design was a 4-piece part that resembled puzzle pieces that could be assembled to make a ruler.
We were really astonished by the creativity, effort, and professionalism the students exhibited while working through the project. All the parts were interesting and were items our students would enjoy developing processes on. During the presentations, the students talked through their constraints and solutions. We knew they would give us great designs, but seeing the students’ presentations and discussions spoke to how the program was also preparing them for future manufacturing careers, not just jobs. It was clear that they were already functioning and thinking at a high level in the manufacturing world. The students, the department, and FTCC more than exceeded our expectations.
Our plans now are to convert the part designs into mold designs. Once that process is complete, we will begin reaching out to mold builders who are willing to partner with us to create molds for use in our labs. We would like to showcase the parts with the logos of FTCC, RJG®, and the mold builder as a way to promote the partnership.