In many U.S. trade and technical schools, certification from the National Institute of Manufacturing Skills (NIMS) ensures students adhere to manufacturing standards. To help ease the certification process, Renishaw developed a gauging system package for NIMS parts inspection.
To gain each NIMS credential, students at participating schools must manufacture 13 parts. Once a student’s manufacturing project is complete, the student loads the parts onto fixture plates for pass-fail quality checks by industry. Scotty Nicholson, technical training manager at Renishaw, said students use a mix of manual milling machines, manual horizontal lathes, manual surface grinders, three-axis or five-axis computer numerical control (CNC) machining centers, two-axis or three-axis CNC lathes or turning centers with live tooling.
“A NIMS credential demonstrates that the candidate met the industry benchmark for competency,” says Joanna Eyer, operations manager at NIMS. “The certification gives the individual a competitive edge in the job market, as it demonstrates skills that could lead to raises and promotions in the future.”
Student parts validation includes measuring all the features of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), as well as plus or minus tolerances. Students must pass all 13 parts inspections to receive certification. Manufacturers and students were experiencing bottlenecks, as typical industry inspections for a part were taking up to two weeks. With about 30 students in a typical NIMS course and six or seven credentials per 10-month course, that’s a lot of parts to measure and verify. Most parts were sent to a local meteorologist or machine shop, where a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) could do the verifications, but only in between customer work.
To remove the bottleneck, NIMS partnered with Renishaw. The NIMS educational package now includes the Renishaw Equator gauging system, fixture, styli and prewritten programs. Renishaw’s Equator is a flexible gauging system for manual or automated measurement, and the company says it doesn’t require annual machine calibration.
The prewritten programs include proven gauging programs for each part required for NIMS certification. The package also includes the metrology fixturing and probe styli needed to student parts. The system features a user-friendly operator interface for easy program selection and execution, as well as a clear display of results.
Students use two fixture plates with six styli—one fixture plate holds five manual machined parts, and the second fixture holds eight CNC and lathe parts. Nicholson said the new program adds more current metrology best practices and technology to reflect industry standards.
Renishaw has worked with two high schools and four technical colleges that offer the NIMS certification. Students get rapid feedback about their parts, and they can witness the measurement process. Renishaw installs the system and trains teachers on-site. With a plug-and-play system, installation and training usually takes one day.
“Creating the NIMS package and introducing teacher training has enabled colleges to improve their programs,” says Nicholson. “By adding metrology into the machine tool certification, students can better validate the parts to an industry standard, as well as benefit from immediate feedback. Over time, this means we’ll have highly engaged students who are more employable in the future.” GD&T training is lacking overall, Nicholson adds.
The Renishaw Equator can be automated in-line with part production or used as a stand-alone check. It can also automate tool offsets for each part and accommodate a robot in the work cell to load and unload a CNC machine or the gauging system.
NIMS is a non-profit organization that works to develop and maintain a globally competitive American workforce by empowering educational institutions to validate training with practical experiences that reflect what individuals will face once they enter the industry.