Hard work pays off for George Brown CNC machinists

Industry partnerships give passionate students opportunities to work on challenging, rewarding projects

A house is only as sturdy as its foundation; whatever you achieve is only as good as what you build upon.

This holds as true for Anne Croll, Matt Vincent, Enrique Burdman, and Matthew Arch, fourth-semester computer numeric control (CNC) and precision machining students of George Brown College (GBC), who are helping in the laying of foundations for everything ranging from lifesaving medical equipment to innovative experimental vehicles.

‘CNC’ refers to programmable, automated machine tools that enable complex and precise manufacturing operations guided by computers. Any modern product that needs high-performing precise components is likely to use CNC machining processes.

The group, completing the industry-partnership component of their two-year diploma program, is currently collaborating with the University Health Network to produce components for vital surgical instrument testing apparatus namely, a protective case for an endoscope test light that verifies the surgical equipment’s optical performance.

“It has a little light bulb on it,” explained Arch, “so we’re making sure that (the case) clamps down on it, so if anybody bumps into it or knocks it over it’s not gonna break.”

If you can’t see the issue properly, you can’t fix the issue properly, and the delicate tool they are protecting is essential for that.

This protective case is only the most recent collaboration with industry partners for some of these students, however. Previously, Vincent, Burdman and Arch collaborated with the University of Toronto (U of T) Human Powered Vehicle team, manufacturing drivetrain components for the sophisticated pedal-propelled submarine, dubbed Axios by its U of T designers.

But while U of T students may have designed the vehicle, it was GBC students who fine-tuned it and made its realization possible.

“It was a little complicated, some parts, because the measurements that they chose were a little odd,” Burdman explained.

“They did the programs for the CNC machines. We went through them, modified them, there were a couple things that you don’t realize are wrong until you practice on CNC, make a couple of programs and see what’s what, so we fixed a couple of those things.”

Doing these kinds of industry projects may be exciting, but these students also have their eyes firmly to the future. Their modesty about correcting university engineering students’ designs melts away when I ask about career hopes.

“Working with CNC machines- employed!” said Croll, laughing.

“At first I’ll take anything, I need the experience,” Burdman adds. The others nod, equally hungry for the chance to graduate and put their education to work.

Make no mistake, though, these students are driven by more than a paycheque. They are enthusiastic and dedicated in a way that’s only seen when people have a genuine passion for what they do.

“You really get out of the program what you put into it,” said Vincent. “If you’re not making an effort then you’re not really getting anything. And it’s like, show up early [to class], that’s when you get to learn exactly what you need to do on CNC machines instead of just showing up and running a part.”

Croll kept her parting thoughts simple, practical, and direct—the consummate machinist.

“Take initiative. Always try. Be brave.”

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Hard work pays off for George Brown CNC machinists