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Training & Education

Trifecta

By Lauren Duensing

Above: The DDM program teaches CAD software skills, including 3D part modeling, machining and sheet metal cutting and forming.

Using digital technology, The Fab School educates students in design, planning and fabrication of next-level parts

September 2019 - “Employers are seeing an increased disconnect between engineers and fabricators,” says David Hall, executive director for the Fab School, Rancho Cucamonga, California. “Time and time again, employers see products being designed and sent to the fabricator that just aren’t possible—or that aren’t utilizing resources to their best ability.”

To address this disconnect, the Fab School has rolled out a new Digital Design & Manufacturing (DDM) program, which teaches students both design and fabrication, allowing them to graduate as a triple threat—designers, programmers and machine operators.

“At the Fab School, our team is constantly working to improve our curriculum, facilities and teaching environments, and we are always looking for ways to improve moving forward,” says Hall, crediting Fab School founder Troy Johnson with understanding the need to take training to the next level.

The Digital Design & Manufacturing program’s curriculum focuses on CAD software for 3D part modeling, machining, and sheet metal cutting and forming. Courses deliver hands-on learning, and class sizes are conducive to both individualized instruction and group project work.

“Our career services team is constantly working with over 300 employers to continue developing skills that are in high demand,” says Hall. “Our DDM instructors worked with our partners and also drew upon their own experiences to build a curriculum that will embrace not only what is needed right now out of employees but what we expect to be on the rise for years to come.”

Solid grounding

At the Fab School, classes tend to “steer away from lectures and note taking,” Hall says. “Our Digital Design & Manufacturing students spend a ton of time in the Solid Works environment and then get hands-on experience programming and operating our in-house CNC machines, such as the mill, lathe, laser and press brake. Students also learn scan-based design, scanning parts into Solid Works with our Faro Technologies design scan arm.”

Students also often work on projects for Troy Johnson, including parts for his personal race cars. “Our last class designed and built a new bumper for our brand-new in-house Jeep during their program,” Hall notes, adding that the class had to work together to meet deadlines and please the customer.

DDM program graduates should have a greater understanding of the entire design and manufacturing process. They will have explored digital part design, planning, assembly modeling, blueprints and 3D modeling using CAD and CAM software for CNC machining, laser cutting and forming and have completed best-practice setup techniques for both manual and CNC machinery. In addition, graduates will be proficient in conceiving and designing parts and assemblies and planning the machining or fabrication workflow in a typical shop environment.

The curriculum for the Digital Design & Manufacturing program doesn’t overlap with the other educational offerings at the school; however, the programs “pair well together,” says Hall. The first class to graduate from the DDM program had all graduated previously from The Fab School’s Fundamentals of Fabrication program. “These students are now extremely talented fabricators,” he says.

Real-world success

One of those graduates, Nick Stortroen, who works as a CNC operator at Redline Precision in Ontario, California, practices most of what he learned at The Fab School every day. “I use the rest of my knowledge to design future projects,” he says. “Surprisingly, it has even sharpened my graphic design skills by transferring Solid Works practices into my designs.”

Stortroen enjoys being able to analyze a manufactured part and “see what I would do different or discover how I can implement aspects of that design into one of my own. Also, being able to solve problems and learn on a daily basis is a big bonus.”

For those who would consider enrolling in one of The Fab School’s programs, Stortroen says, “You don’t always need a [four-year] degree to get what you want. Carve out a path for yourself. The Fab School was a great start for me to get an understanding of what was out there and how I can do it for a living.” FFJ

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