KC’s Abel: manufacturing interest

January 6, 2017

Max Abel of Genoa works at Greenlee Textron on the line as a CNC operator. He also attends Kishwaukee College in the automated engineering technology program, taking computer numerical control classes to better his prospects. But this semester, he used his CNC skills to create something just for him: a Yamaha clock.

Abel has worked at Greenlee for about two and a half years. Taking classes at Kishwaukee helped him move up from line operator to CNC operator. CNC refers to a computer on the manufacturing line that uses programming to instruct the machine to create parts from raw materials and to cut with incredible precision. CNC operation often incorporates functions from traditional hand tool-and-die equipment into a single machine. CNC operators require training in computer use and programming knowledge.

“I definitely have learned the function of the machines on the line better,” he said. “And I definitely understand programs and programming much better.”

In his advanced CNC class this fall, instructor Pete Campbell told the class to choose a project they were interested in and manufacture it. Abel decided to make a clock with the Yamaha logo on the face. He started by designing his clock using AutoCAD design software. When the design was complete – from gear-toothed edging to the raised numbers on the clock face to the perfect duplication of the Yamaha logo – Abel moved on to step two: programming using SurfCAM, a computer-aided manufacturing program. He then sent the commands to the CNC machine in the college’s manufacturing lab.

The CNC machine turned an 11-inch square piece of aluminum into a cleanly and precisely cut clock face in about three hours. From start to finish, Abel estimated that if he could have worked on the project nonstop, from when he first sat down at a computer in AutoCAD to removing the clock face from the CNC machine, would take about one week.

Campbell has been impressed with the level of design and work the students have put into their projects.

“It really gave them a hands-on experience from start to finish,” he said. “They always say that some of the best engineering comes from the shop.”

Abel finished his clock with a coat of matte black paint and then a return to the CNC machine to take a layer of paint off the raised numbers to reveal brushed aluminum underneath.

“I cut a space in the back and put in a battery pack and added hands from a cheap clock I bought,” he said. “That was the finishing touch.”

Abel’s immediate goal is to graduate from Kishwaukee College with his degree in automated engineering technology. Long term? He wants to transfer to Northern Illinois University and become an engineer.