Hands-on engineering in the new CAD CAM centre

Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering students at Monash University don’t just design and build their own robots. With the recently opened Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD CAM) centre they can make parts for them too.

Department Manager Mr Geoff Binns said that the facility has revolutionised study in engineering design, and much of the carefully chosen equipment didn’t exist when the centre was first proposed.

“I’m excited by how much the centre has achieved in the past few months,” he said.

Six state-of-the-art 3D printers ensure students get more than just two-dimensional design experience.

The centre’s stereo microscope lets students work on surface mount components, making them better prepared for industry expectations.

Parts are cut and engraved with a laser cutter, providing a huge increase in efficiency and accuracy with students no longer having to measure and cut components by hand.

In the third year of their course, the students tackle a robot design project, which is both the culmination of their previous studies and preparation for their major fourth year project.

Current students Joshua Lim and Hemal Wickramasinghe enjoyed working on the robot as a team.

“Designing the robot from the start and constructing it, seeing it all come together was really great,” Joshua said.

“Seeing all the different ideas come together was my favourite part. It’s so interesting,” Hemal added.

Mr Michael Zenere is looking forward to a friendly competition where a robot he and fellow staff members created will be pitted against those built by his students.

“It’s really interesting to see what the students come up with,” he said.

Robots aren’t the only way the centre brings together theoretical and practical engineering concepts. Professor Malin Premaratne pointed out a set of Helmholtz coils used when learning about motor design in second year, with parts cut and engraved in the centre’s laser system.

“Through measuring the magnetic field across the coils students can compare theory and experiment and become more confident in using theory in their designs, ” Professor Premaratne explained.

The CAD CAM centre is where hands-on learning and industry-level equipment are incorporated into the curriculum to prepare students for success. As Mr Binns said, “Here’s the platform, what are you going to do with it?”