How to Crash Your Mill (Responsibly)

Mistakes Happen: Turning Student Crashes into Teachable Moments with Your CNC Mill

broken tools

College freshman are immersed in new experiences at the start of the fall semester – their first time away from home, shopping on a budget, and, many times, their first time coming face to face with a CNC machine.

We’ve all seen them. Their hands shake terrified they’re going to break something.

So – why not let them?

Just like other parts of their first year experience, freshmen are going to learn the limits of machining by going a little too fast, pushing a little too far. In a controlled environment with you watching them crash a machine, this can help them gain that level of confidence they’re going to need as they learn the theory of milling and turning.

Just like cars, some machines crash better than others, and here’s a guide to not busting your budget as students learn machining the hard way.

Make Sure It’s the Right Machine

The combination of stout cast iron design and small size means its nearly impossible to do serious damage to our Tormach PCNC mills – they just don’t have enough power to tear themselves apart.  Students can experience a crash without the spindle ripping off or vices being flung. Less destruction means a lower repair bill, and that makes the them great candidates for the controlled crash.

Use Cheap Tools

Even the most controlled crashes result in something breaking. For this exercise, put the Haimers on the top shelf and grab a less expensive tool, like an edge finder (wiggler). These little guys give your students a chance to find the X and Y axes of your workpiece, and, if something goes wrong, you’re out less than $10. Try a dial indicator for the Z axis. It’s hard for students to over travel and destroy these.

Be Nice

Whether the edge finder tip and spring fly off and are never found again or land just across the enclosure, remind your students that making mistakes is okay and even experts break tools. Reacting to a crash is also a teachable moment, and students will learn to respond with confidence, not terror, the first time it happens to them.

Joe Gray

With more than a decade of hands-on experience in the trades, Joe Gray previously worked in the construction, electroplating, plastics, foundry, and machining industries as an operator, engineer, or manager. Most recently he taught as a Lecturer in the Industrial Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville before joining Tormach as a technical specialist.


One thought on “How to Crash Your Mill (Responsibly)

  • Avatar
    09/15/2016 at 7:36 pm

    If you don’t break something now and then, you’re not getting much done.

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