SET for Teaching Success – employer engagement: Chris Dortel


College tutor Chris Dortel reflects on the three-day work placement he undertook with engineering company DS Engineering. The placement was undertaken as part of the SET for Teaching Success programme, which recruits, trains, mentors and supports new teachers of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET). The programme offers its recruits a unique opportunity to develop additional skills and experience to bring to their teaching, as Chris explains.

I have now completed my work placement with an engineering company (DS Engineering), which is located in Witham, Essex. As previously arranged with the workshop manager (Stuart Cooper), I attended the placement on Tuesday 28th, Thursday 30th and Friday 31st May 2019.

Stuart organised the three days of CPD which incorporated shadowing programmers/setters and operators of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery such as lathes and mills. CNC milling machining is where items/materials which are going to be machined are placed in a vice or clamped down to the milling table and machined, whereas CNC lathe machining is where the material is placed into a chuck and rotated clockwise when cutting and anti-clockwise when tapping.

I was introduced to the staff I was going to shadow for the three days. The first member of staff (Brett) explained the operations of the workings of CNC lathes; he was a great help, giving me advice and information concerning how and why it is still important to use “G” codes whilst programming the machinery. Whilst understanding “G” codes, the operator/setter explained that some machinery operates slightly differently and converts these codes into conversational programs which means it helps to simplify the whole process of programming a machine to do what you want it to do via an external computer using blue tooth operations.

I was introduced to some very useful information and tools, one in particular was an app which I can now download and is called (Helpful App: CNC Machinist calculator). I have found this app particularly helpful with working out feeds and speeds, trigonometry and so much more.

While shadowing the CNC lathe setter, I was allowed to operate the machine. My task was to simply read and understand the “G” codes on the screen whilst the machine was running, producing and cutting a one-inch BSP (British Standard Pipe) thread. The threading was being machined from some 304 stainless steel tube; these manufactured parts were for the pharmaceutical industry.

The setter explained and showed me the two types off CNC lathes which DS Engineering has, one was a HAAS lathe and the other a HURCO machine. Both use different programmable formats, but still use the “G” code structures. I found this interesting as I thought all CNC machinery operated and was programmed in a similar fashion. Stuart mentioned that the more complicated machine to program – the HURCO – was primarily used for large batch production because it was much more complicated to program and it was much more rigid to complete the tasks which it was set for.

I then went onto the milling section and was introduced to Kevin, who had 25 to 30 years’ experience working with CNC milling machines. Kevin was extremely knowledgeable on programming, setting and operating these machines, and very helpful in giving me information when I asked him questions. He explained using the G54 code if you only have one item to produce on the milling table, and G55, G56 and so on if there’s more than one job which needed to be produced whist milling.

Whilst on the milling section, Kevin showed me some CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) work on the computer which was helpful and interesting as DS Engineering software seemed more user friendly and pliable than the software we have at our college.

This whole experience has given me invaluable knowledge of how a modern-day engineering company operates, processes information and acts upon what the customer wants. I also gained a great deal of insight into the new types of processes which DS Engineering incorporates within the production items which save on tool wear and labour costs, and also the lean manufacturing processes which are used in today’s engineering industry.

Thank you DS Engineering for hosting my employer work placement.

For further details of the SET for Teaching Success programme, visit the ETF website.

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