Instructor assistant Corey Wegner proudly shows off a steel cutout in the shape of an elk, done in such fine detail that the texture of the hairs on the elk’s neck is apparent. The metal was cut on the latest piece of equipment in the welding shop at Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Amazingly, the metal was cut without applying any heat, and in fact, it is specifically because no heat was used that the detail was so fine.
A Flow waterjet cutter did the job, and students enrolled for the fall term will be learning how to use it. It’s another example of how CVTC continues to stay on the “cutting edge” of manufacturing equipment. It’s rare indeed for the graduate of a CVTC manufacturing program to enter the workforce and be baffled by the technology. The college is generally ahead of the curve.
“We are constantly talking to companies, and they are very good about telling us what the new trends are. The college is very good at keeping up with that,” says Jeff Sullivan, associate dean of manufacturing.
A case in point is the waterjet cutter, which uses a high pressure fine stream of water to cut metal in fine detail.
“It’s cutting using the erosion process instead of heat, so you don’t get the heat-affected areas you do from heat cutting,” says Walter Quaschnick, head of the welding program. Intense heat can affect the properties of the metal being cut.
“And because we use water, we can cut through other things like ceramic, wood and rubber,” Quaschnick continues. “It’s a unique type of cutting process.”
One of the biggest applications is in cutting stainless steel, which is susceptible to rusting if cut with a torch. One local company, Midwest Stainless in Menomonie, uses a waterjet and appreciates that CVTC manufacturing graduates are familiar with this technology.
CVTC’s strategy works two ways. Students are better prepared to enter the workforce by having training on the latest equipment, and the fact that trained workers are available encourages industry to modernize. It’s how education can drive economic development.
Also new at CVTC this year is a Haas VM-2 unit in the machine tool area. Sullivan notes it is capable of a 1,000-rpm spindle speed. “If you make an analogy, it would be like a standard computer compared to a high-speed computer,” Sullivan said.
Examples of such high-technology capability at CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center area abound:
- The welding program has a computer interface so students can evaluate their techniques with a computer program.
- The machine tool program has the capability of micro-machining.
- The industrial mechanic program has an assembly line simulator in which students can troubleshoot problems.
- The nanoengineering technology program has a Class 100 cleanroom, unique in the state.
CVTC’s manufacturing technology is so sophisticated that the college receives requests from private industry to use it, which is possible through the college’s Equipment Access Program.
Chippewa Valley Technical College campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west-central Wisconsin. It is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.