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CNC Machining: WPI Shows Untapped Potential for US Manufacturers

By Professor Christopher A. Brown, PhD, PE, Founder and Director of WPI’s Haas Technical Education Center for Computer-controlled Machining

No matter how you cut it, you can’t escape the importance of machining. Most manufactured products are no more than two steps away from a machine tool. Then why are so many US manufacturers so far behind on the technology and economics of machining?

Last summer grad students in manufacturing at WPI demonstrated to engineers in a local company how one of their molds could be CNC machined in less than 24 hours — a mold currently taking 28 days to be made in China. The payback period for buying the equipment to make it in Massachusetts would be less than a year, and the molds would be made faster, better, and cheaper than China.

The cost of CNC machining is coming down and the capacity and capabilities are going up. Haas Automation has CNC mills and lathes starting at $20k. Gene Haas is making these solid, fast, accurate machines in Oxnard, California, successfully using lean manufacturing to keep quality up and costs down. Gene keeps pushing innovations. Now he has a new gantry mill with a plasma cutter supplied by Hypertherm in NH, a connection that WPI helped to make.

Education and training for CNC is advancing. Haas is helping over 30 technical education centers in community and technical colleges as well as research universities like WPI, RPI, and Penn State — schools covering the country from Northern Maine CC in Presque Isle to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

Get Up to Speed in CNCMachining
WPI offers an evening, introductory, lab-based accelerated short-course in CNC machining: four evenings, four hours, and four hundred dollars each. You start on the machine tool in the first class. We have 11 Haas CNC machine tools, Gibbs, and Esprit CAM software. To learn more about the courses visit us on the web at


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