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The Importance of 2D CAD/CAM

‘The 3D world - that is sometimes 2D’

CAD/CAM Display Board

Hardly a week goes by without 3D-Printing hitting the headlines. This week it was Cardiff biker, Stephen Power, who had major facial reconstruction using 3D-printed templates and printed titanium implants. Despite current media attention, the technique is not all that new.

I saw something very similar about 7 years ago when TechSoft started to sell the Stratasys range of 3D Printers. The human skull produced from scan data was not (after all) a macabre sample, but a template to enable surgeons to plan a brain tumour operation on a young girl. They had used one of theDimension machines we were selling at the time.

2D CAD/CAM is just as important

Other forms of CAD/CAM are equally relevant so now is a good time to give them a bit of attention. CNC knife-cutters are about the easiest and most versatile tools for students to engage in real CAD/CAM activity and the work they do will be just as credible in assessment terms. And value for money? A Roland CAMM 1 GX-24E is top-of-the-line technology for commercial users,but it costs about jthe same as a budget entry-level 3D printer.

A Roland CAMM 1 or Stika machine demonstrates CAD/CAM principles perfectly and, like all CAD/CAM tools, produces professional results that do full justice to the quality of the design work. In the classroom, knife-cutters have plenty of practical advantages too. Materials are inexpensive and output is rapid – very rapid in the case of the Roland GX series machines. A full set of class projects at KS3 can be output in minutes with the students watching. I think this is important.

Students do the work

Practicalities must dictate, but I’m always a bit uncomfortable when CNC machines are sited out of the classroom. CAD/CAM work must be something that students actually do and not a kind of bureaux-service provided by the technician.

TechSoft supply a huge variety of materials for knife-cutting includingspecial card for packages and templates, heat-applied vinyls for textiles work, metallics, self-adhesive media for labels and even glow-in-the-dark media for head turning effects in the street or at the disco.

2D Printing Machines

Exemplary Work in Hampshire

Steve Brawley at Mountbatten School in Romsey, Hampshire has CNC knife-cutting off to a fine art. The pictures here are all from his Year 7, 8 and 9 groups who produce clocks, ‘phone holders and framed mirrors all using 2D Design, a TechSoft LaserCAM and a Roland GX-24E knife-cutter. The results speak for themselves and, in terms of quality, it’s hard to see which ones come from Year 7 and which from Year 9. That’s because Steve has a clear strategy for teaching 2D Design from the start. As he says; “the Year 7s see what the Year 9s have done and step-up to match it. By the time they are in Year 9 they step-up again. The work just keeps getting better and better”. Spending an afternoon in the classroom with one of his Y7 groups was a delight. A natural and dynamic engagement with design and products that students love and value has to be a hallmark of success in Design and Technology. Steve would be the first to admit that the projects themselves are hardly ground-breaking but (as they say) “It ain’t what you do – it’s the way that you do it”.

And that’s what gets results!

by Tim Elderton of TechSoft, April 2014
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