AUBURN, ME – Central Maine Community College (CMCC) is expanding its flagship Precision Machining Program with the addition of a 14,500 square foot Gene Haas Precision Machining Technology Center. The addition will increase the College’s current 10,000 square foot machine lab by nearly 50% and is funded in part by a $1,000,000 grant from the Gene Haas Foundation.
“The Precision Machining Program is over 40 years old and is the largest program, with the greatest investment in technology,” states to Dr. Knapp, President of CMCC. “It’s also considered the keystone of our reputation in the community and throughout the state of Maine.”
CMCC began their relationship with Haas and their local Haas Factory Outlet five years ago. At that point they had just started expanding their CNC program. Over the last five years they’ve acquired a total of 16 Haas CNC machine tools, bringing their overall total of CNC machines to 30, along with 40 manual machines.
“We’re really out of room – everything’s pretty tight here.” States Devon Watson – CNC Instructor. “Our expansion is going to give us another 4,500 square feet of additional lab space, which will allow us to space machines out a little bit and also continue adding new technology and bring new capabilities to the program.”
Among the Haas machines currently in use are five turning centers, which include a Haas DS-30Y dual spindle multitasking turning center with Y-axis, a Haas ST-20Y and ST-10Y multitasking turning centers with Y-axis, a 2-axis Haas ST-10 CNC lathe and two TL-1 tool room lathes.
On the milling side, CMCC has two Haas VF-2YT vertical machining centers with extended Y-axis, one of which features a TR-160 trunnion, making it a 5-axis machine. There is also a Haas VM-2 vertical mold making machine which provides the accuracy, rigidity, and thermal stability required for mold making, and tool & die work. And finally, on order is CMCC’s first Haas UMC-750 5-axis universal machining center, which features a built-in trunnion allowing for simultaneous machining on 5 faces of a workpiece.
“You can’t put students on old equipment,” states Dr. Knapp, “The machinery that we have in the program is really state-of-the-art and that’s really important when we’re working with our local employers. One of the things that our local Haas Factory Outlet (Trident Machine Tools), has helped us with is staying current on that equipment, and in making sure that we are at least where our business and industry is. There are a number of areas that we are actually ahead of our employers in being able to teach students on the latest equipment.”
According to Watson, the H-TEC (Haas Technical Education Center) program discounts have enabled CMCC to purchase, “More machine for the money”. This includes machines with high-performance features, such as turning centers with Y-axis and dual spindles, or machining centers with 4th and 5th axis.
By investing in advanced Haas CNC machine technology, such as multitasking turning centers and 5-axis machining centers, CMCC is able to promote a new program called, RAMP. The Regional Advanced Machining Partnership (RAMP) is a project funded in part by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program. The major goals of the RAMP are to 1) develop a certificate in advanced machining, 2) provide faculty development in advanced machining and 3) disseminate proven practices for student recruitment.
The certificate in advanced machining is designed for graduates of two year machining programs and machinists with CNC experience wishing to upgrade their skill sets. The program offers advanced machining theories and applications required to setup and run multi-axis CNC machine tools. Topics covered include; programming, setup and operation of 4-axis vertical and horizontal machining centers, 5-axis vertical machining centers and turning centers with live-tooling. The certificate prepares students for advanced level positions in the machining field related to multitasking CNC equipment.
“It’s been a great relationship with Haas.” states Watson, “When we started teaching on Haas CNC controlled machines, we were a little skeptical at first (being a Fanuc based school), but the students really took to it quickly. We usually factored three days into our first semester for a student to get comfortable on a Fanuc based control. Now, at the end of the first day, they are fairly comfortable using and operating a Haas control. So that’s extra time we get actually teaching concepts, and not getting used to a control.”
Watson adds, “The folks at HFO/Trident have been amazing to work with, everyone from sales to applications, service. Everyone. When we call, they get right back to us. Training, if we need training or phone support, the applications guys are always trying to find a way to help us out.”
Typical enrollment in the Precision Machining Program is 135 full time students, not including part-time and non-matriculated students. With all programs combined, total enrolment is closer to 200 students. CMCC recruits students from throughout New England as well as New York
Graduating class size is about 50 per year for the Precision Machining Technology program. These graduates are employed as; CNC machine operators, machinists, tool and die makers, quality control inspectors, machine assemblers, machine tool designers, CNC programmer or field service representatives.
“If a student graduates and wants a job, they have a job.” Watson states. “This year we probably had close to 100 job openings from employers just calling looking for students. That didn’t include what students were looking at online or job postings. That was just people calling here.”
Dr. Knapp continues, “We have comprehensive partnerships with lots of Maine Precision Machining firms. It varies between, in some cases, these companies will recruit out of their program. In many cases, they send their current employees to the program. There was actually a summer in which we retrained the workforce of a company that employed 300 people in Precision Machining, and we had all of those 300 people on the campus at one time or another. A lot of the companies provide scholarships for their employees, their employees’ children, as well, and we occasionally get donations from those, from companies of equipment, or money, or money for scholarships.”
In total, there are approximately 3,000 students enrolled in Central Maine Community College courses. In addition, an estimated 2,000 area residents participate each year in conferences, courses and programs offered through the Corporate and Community Services Division of the College. The students are served by approximately 150 faculty and staff members. Each year more than 300 students graduate with an associate’s degree, certificate or diploma.
CMCC offers educational opportunities for both transfer to baccalaureate programs and career preparation. Associate in arts and associate in science degrees are designed as the first two years of a more advanced degree. The associate in applied science degree, certificates, and diplomas are designed to prepare students for direct entry into the workplace. All graduates are expected to have a set of core competencies that will enable them to be qualified and productive members of the workforce and to continue their education after they graduate and throughout their lives.
Central Maine Community College traces its origin to 1963 as Androscoggin State Vocational Institute. In 2003, the name was changed to Central Maine Community College, offering transfer degrees in the arts and sciences as well as career and technical programs.