Advanced Manufacturing Program Answers Demand for Skilled Workers
April 23, 2015
The Pulaski campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology offers programs in Advanced Manufacturing; using classroom and hands-on training to graduate skilled process technicians to meet the intense demand of local businesses. With over 100 plastics manufacturers within 100 miles of the campus, placement rates for the program are almost 100%.
To ensure graduates have the level of skills required, and are trained on the most up-to-date technologies, course instructor Dino Owen continually revises the program to follow changes in the industry. “The curriculum changes we just completed are the most extensive in the past 12 years,” says Owen. “We have added 3D printing & scanning as well as CAD for 3D printing. We have also added manual machining (milling, lathe, CNC) and tool and die training so our students can learn to build small injection molds, providing them a fuller understanding of the whole manufacturing process.”
Governor’s Grant Provides a State-of-the-Art Lab
Using a recently acquired Governor’s Grant, TCAT Pulaski was able to create a state-of-the-art manufacturing lab – designed to replicate an actual manufacturing facility – equipped with the latest in plastics manufacturing equipment.
Two injection molding machines have been supplied by machinery manufacturer ENGEL, an 85 ton tie-bar-less ENGEL victory spex and a 110 ton all-electric press.
ADAMS Engineers and Equipment, Inc. regional representative for ENGEL in Tennessee, worked closely with TCAT to select the ENGEL tie-bar-less servo hydraulic and all electric machine technology. Cliff Adams, President of ADAMS Engineers said "We worked with TCAT to select the injection molding machine technology currently being used in regional plants to ensure TCAT graduates are prepared for industry employment. TCAT is training students to fill the shortage of process technicians in the area, and we are excited to be part of that effort".
“The ENGEL tie-bar-less machine is the perfect teaching machine,” advises Owen. “First off, the mold area is fully open, providing students with an unobstructed view during training. Additionally, it allows for a variety of core configurations otherwise limited by tie-bar equipped machines.
“The all-electric machine provides us different teaching opportunities,” Owen adds. “With a substantial percentage of today’s injection molding machines using all-electric technology, this machine gives the student a variation on controller design, as well as maintenance experience focusing on servo type systems.
The Governor’s Grant allowed for the purchase of the tie-bar-less press, two new 3D printers (one 460 plus powder printer and one Cubify extruded strand printer) and a Creaform 3D scanner ) purchased through NovaCopy, a hydraulic trainer manufactured by FPTI, (Fluid Power Technical Institute) that focuses on zero pressure micro leak hydraulic testing, and Allen Bradley and Siemens PLC Trainers.
The all-electric press has been provided to TCAT on-loan by ENGEL.
The training offered by TCAT continues beyond the Advanced Manufacturing diploma. The College also provides extended skill development through ROUTSIS on-line training, with over 100 courses available, and certification upon completion. These courses are also available for those already working in the industry, with programs tailored to suit each person’s needs. Many area manufacturers are taking advantage of these programs to upgrade the skills of their workforce.
Most recently, the Advanced Manufacturing Education (AME) class has added CPT (Certified Production Technician) certification to its first trimester course outline. CPT is a nationally recognized program that is started in high school, with full credit given towards the AME course at TCAT Pulaski.
Open House Educates Local Businesses
On December 16, 2014, local manufacturing companies were invited to attend an Open House for the new Advanced Manufacturing Program, allowing them a first-hand look at the course program and the facilities at which their future workforce are being trained. Instructor Owen and AME students spend the day talking to business representatives from all over the state of Tennessee, as well as Kentucky and Alabama. Many that attended mentioned they “did not realize a school of this quality was not only so close to them, but supplying the kind of employees they need to grow their business.” Many companies have scheduled a return visit to TCAT to interview future graduates for positions at their facilities.