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PDF iconTraining the Manufacturers of Tomorrow

With help from Edgecam, Northern Maine Community College trains the next generation of manufacturers

As the U.S. manufacturing industry struggles to find its next generation of shop-floor pros, the heart of the trade — and its future — are alive and well at Northern Maine Community College.

“It’s difficult to recruit because there’s still this misconception of manufacturing —that it’s greasy, grimy, difficult and unpleasant work,” says Dean Duplessis, an instructor for the Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) Precision Machining Technology Program (PMT). “Manufacturing isn’t what it was years ago. Succeeding in manufacturing is partly about getting young adults to recognize the many opportunities for success in the field.”

Based in Presque Isle, Maine, NMCC’s machining program provides students with true-to-life shop-floor experience. Designed to operate just like a real shop, students fulfill orders placed by real customers — many of whom struggle with staffing and have a very real need for parts.

“The pinnacle of the program is the live-work experience,” Duplessis says. “Students are clocking in and out, customers are waiting for parts, and there are work orders (job travelers) on the shop floor.”

In addition to teaching students the skills needed to set up and operate machine tools, the 12-year-old program provides instruction in CNC programming, setup and operation, process planning, blueprint reading, measurement, inspection, and custom work-holding design.

Students who successfully complete the program walk away with practical knowledge, as well as credentials from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills. While the program’s two-year students earn an associate degree in applied science, those who complete the one-year program earn a valuable certificate.

“The learning curve is not steep with Edgecam. We are generating code in the first or second class, which was not the case with other software.”

Dean Duplessis, Precision Machining Technology Program Instructor

“Students are continually challenged, which helps to build confidence and knowledge in the trade,” Duplessis says. “Most of the students who join us are here for a two-year degree and are available to work immediately upon graduation.”

Because training for today’s manufacturing workplace must include instruction on the use of computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) software, NMCC utilizes the Edgecam solution, by Vero Software, to train its students in the science — and art — of CAM programming.

“Students really need to have CNC experience for all four semesters of the program,” Duplessis says. “Last year was the first year we worked with Edgecam, and it was a tremendous success.”

Students at NMCC receive 32 weeks of Edgecam training in both milling and turning, as well as instruction with solid modeling software. The 30-student-maximum class size (15 first-year and 15 second-year) ensures that there is enough time for one-on-one instruction with the solution, as well as with the HAAS machinery utilized by the school.

NMCC made the switch to Edgecam from its former CAM software because the investment in time needed in learning to use the former system was simply too great.

“The learning curve is not steep with Edgecam,” Duplessis says. “We are generating code in the first or second class, which was not the case with other software.”

The students produce lot sizes of 100 pieces or fewer for customers from all over the country; customers pay tooling, materials and shipping costs in return for labor at no charge.

While some of the student parts are simple, the required fixturing and, or, tooling may be complex. As each order is unique, each presents unique challenges.

“We strategize,” Duplessis says. “For each order, we sit down with the student to determine how best to proceed. Along the way, we are always looking for commitment to the program, to the customer, and to quality products. Most of the students who stay in touch with us come back and say it’s an invaluable real-world experience.”

Ryan Cullins, a 2015 graduate of NMCC’s PMT program, now works as a CNC machinist at Fiber Materials of Biddeford, Maine.

“I think the education I received at NMCC went a long way to prepare me for work,” Cullins says. “Dean did an awesome job imparting as much knowledge as he could in the limited time we were students and, through multi-part runs and complex parts, let us experience and learn how to fix the problems that might arize. He also instilled in us the desire to continue to learn our trade — and I'm still learning every day.”

Cullins says that his Edgecam training “came in handy” when he was hired for his current position, as his company uses Edgecam for its CNC programming needs.

“Having coded longhand at school and a few times at work, CAM software goes a
long way to make things easier,” Cullins says. “There are features of Edgecam that are nice to have. Edgecam is used for basically every program I run.”

NMCC works closely with members of the manufacturing industry to determine its foremost needs and to help companies recruit new talent. However, the recruitment of fresh faces works both ways.

“They help us to recruit for our program, and we help them to fill openings,” Duplessis says. “We have all evolved because of those who have gained experience over decades in manufacturing. We’re serving facilities that go back for generations. Some are companies handed down from generation to generation, and some are reinventing themselves.”

While larger companies tend to be in need of new personnel who can operate sophisticated machinery, mom-and-pop shops are in search of well-rounded employees who can do a bit of everything.

Support in the CAM and machine tool industries has also helped NMCC to reach and teach the next generation of manufacturers. Edgecam reseller M2 Technologies provides technical Edgecam support to the school, where students often take part in support calls as part of the live learning environment.

“They provide the technical support, which is phenomenal,” Duplessis says. “If I have a question, I can go to them. The level of support they provide is very detailed.”

For new manufacturing professionals like Cullins, as well as those who employ them, training that mirrors true working conditions is an advantage for both parties.

“NMCC and Dean's precision machining program is an awesome learning environment that does a great job preparing the student for the wide range of things that come into play within the student’s chosen profession,” Cullins says. “It was an awesome opportunity to learn machining and Edgecam there.”

About the Company

Name: Northern Maine Community College

Business: Education in several disciplines, technical and otherwize



Benefits Achieved

  • Enhanced ability to provide well-rounded CNC training
  • Increased ease-of-use for students
  • Increased ability to provide in-depth job training


“The learning curve is not steep with Edgecam. We are generating code in the first or second class, which was not the case with other software.”

Dean Duplessis, Precision Machining Technology Program Instructor


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