Teresa Smith and
Austin Matthews, both of North Platte, monitor a CNC router as it cuts out trim
for a window. The router has transformed the way students create projects in
the building construction program at North Platte Community College.
A unique tool is revolutionizing the way students create building construction projects at North Platte Community College.
The college purchased a full-size ShopBot PRSalpha CNC router a year ago, and in doing so, gave its students the opportunity to train on some of the most advanced equipment on the market.
"The precision on that thing is unbelievable," said Roger Fattig, building construction instructor. "The machine cuts to 1/100 of an inch, and it will cut out anything you tell it to – holes, rabbets, decorative designs. You just have to program it and change the bit."
The router delivers rapid transit speeds of 1,800 inches per minute and cutting speeds of up to 600 inches per minute. It's also capable of drilling, carving and machining.
This week, the router was used to cut trim for an arch window on the 2016 NPCC Foundation Auction House.
"There's just no other way to do that type of project, and have it turn out as nice as it did," said Fattig. "It's really difficult to measure the radius on an arch and get everything true to the dimensions. It would take a couple of days to do it by hand. The router did it in a matter of minutes."
As a bonus, the machine cuts smoothly enough that little sanding has to be done afterward.
"The alternative to the method would be to use a jigsaw," said Fattig. "However, when you're cutting curved pieces by hand, it's easy to run into saw marks and tilting issues. Saws vibrate, and there's no way to hold a sander or planer at a perfect 90 degree angle all the time. With the router, everything is true from the beginning."
In addition to working on the auction house, building construction students have used the router to cut multiple cabinet end pieces at once and to make blanket chests that were raffled off earlier this year.
"They cut out all the curved pieces on the chests in about 15 minutes," said Fattig. "Normally, that process would have taken half a day and would not have been as precise."
The router is housed in a special room featuring an observation window. The glass allows prospective students and community leaders taking tours of the college to watch demonstrations of the machine.
"It has been a great recruiting tool," said Fattig. "Most importantly, though, it gets our current students excited about learning and gives them one more skill they can take out into the workforce."