Mill upgrades for Student Innovation Center
Department of Chemistry
We request funds to upgrade two outdated knee mills by retrofitting them with modern 2-axis CNC (computer numerical control) controllers. These mills are part of the Student Innovation Center (SIC), which is based in the Department of Chemistry and is available to all UW students. Access to milling machinery has been limited by cost, long lead times, and outdated machines. Updating these existing mills will serve two critical functions that benefit UW students. (1) Student training: Students in the SIC will be first introduced to milling using these mills and manual control (i.e., the student manually controls the mill during each step of the fabrication process). After this upgrade, students will be then be trained to control those same mills using 2-axis CNC. This provides a very natural steppingstone to prepare students to operate the SIC’s larger 3-axis CNC mill, which already uses the same controller that we are requesting to upgrade the smaller mills. (2) Expanding capacity: Currently, CNC milling in the SIC can only be performed on a larger 3-axis CNC mill. After the upgrade, many simpler parts that only require 2-axis CNC will be fabricated on the upgraded mills, which will free up the larger 3-axis CNC mill for projects that benefit the most from its additional capabilities. Therefore, these upgrades will have a multiplicative impact on the overall experience of students who use the SIC. Milling is a subtractive cutting process used to machine parts from various stock materials with high accuracy. Milling has widespread utility in engineering, electronics, instrument design, and physical sciences. Facile access to CNC mills is critical for those who iteratively design and fabricate their own tools and instrumentation, which includes hundreds of UW students in the physical and life sciences. More generally, students will benefit from exposure to equipment and skills that are widely used in industry as they prepare themselves for their future careers.