Barry McNamara  |   Published March 17, 2015

We have the tools

New mill adds to impressive arsenal at college’s CSB
The typical college art major isn’t asked to devote hours of study to the subject without ever getting the opportunity to create his or her own art.
 
But professor Chris Fasano and his colleagues in Monmouth College’s physics department see that happening, to a degree, in their discipline, and they have resolved to do something about it.
 
“One of the things we used to see is that students coming to college had some experience making things,” said Fasano. “Maybe they had taken a shop class, or they’d had the opportunity to work in construction through their school. Now, that doesn’t happen anymore. Making things is quite foreign to this generation of students.”
 
Since the college purchased a 3-D printer last year, physics students have spent countless hours “making things” with it. Now, a new tool is at their disposal, as the college purchased a 2,600-pound mill, thanks in large part to a generous gift from trustee Nancy Speer Engquist ’74.
 
Milling is the machining process of using rotary cutters to remove material from a workpiece advancing in a direction at an angle with axis of the tool. It is one of the most commonly used processes in industry and machine shops today for machining parts to precise sizes and shapes.
 
“We are delighted,” said Fasano. “This tool fits well into our desire to have students be able to make things – for experiments and for prototypes – and become confident in their abilities. Between the mill and the 3-D printer, we should be able to make almost anything when we are up to speed. We’re adding some very high-quality tools.”
 
Fasano called the mill – which has precision measured to one thousandth of an inch – “the 3-D printer of the past.” Yet it will also be a tool for the future, as the brand new mill is a “100-year machine.”
 
“A mill allows you to take stock metal and plastic and shape it to whatever you want,” said Fasano. “This will help us provide a practical, basic skill for our future scientists and engineers. Designing and building what you need is a big part of those fields.”
 
Fasano said an experienced machinist will provide instruction to the students early on. He’s hoping to have it up and running before the semester ends. If not, it will ready to go for the fall.
 
“Our students are building and soldering electronics, they’re blowing glass, and now we have all the things they’ll be able to do with the mill and the printer,” said Fasano. “This is all very unusual for a liberal arts college. I don’t know that other colleges are making a concerted effort toward building things like we are here at Monmouth.”
 
In addition to crediting Engquist’s gift, Fasano wanted to mention the “not trivial” contribution from the college’s physical plant. Their crew, directed by Earl Wilfong, figured out how to unload the one ton-plus piece of machinery and maneuver it through the Center for Science and Business to get to its home in the physics department. It’s a good thing that physics is housed on the ground level of the CSB, rather than the third floor. That would’ve required a whole new level of physics problem solving. 
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