STAPLES -- Four unique trucks rolled off the assembly line at Central Lakes College.
Well, they didn't exactly roll.
And this assembly line isn't part of a mass production plant aimed at a consuming public.
But it could be.
Mechanical Drafting and Design students teamed up to create several dump truck models.
"It's a project that allows students to use the latest software and our rapid prototype machine to simulate what they might be doing for a living," said instructor Dave Bissonette.
In a two-month period students worked in teams of two and three. They shared the process, experiencing the real-world problems and rewards of teamwork. By the final week of the spring term, each team had worked out the problems, finishing colorful prototypes just in time for a team of staff judges.
One project requirement: Each dump truck needed to be able to remove all of the marbles placed in its box.
There was one painted in John Deere yellow with "Big Dumper" emblazoned on the dump portion of the truck.
Next was a Caterpillar yellow "Peterbilt replica" mining truck, with monster tires.
Then there was a blue dump truck with eight vertical exhaust pipes ascending through the manifold area.
Finally, here was the metallic-looking red and silver truck that featured a working lever to tilt the box.
"I used a piece of copper for the cam," said Dave Lange of Baxter, a non-traditional student making the most of the Mechanical Desktop 6 software employed in the project. Extra sanding, paint with specific qualities and sealer helps give the truck a metallic gleam.
Each of the trucks is made of a binder and powder brought together in layers using a rapid prototype machine. Every calibration had to be synchronized through the computer design and checked for accuracy after the model was cured
"After the parts dried, they had to fit within a slim tolerance," said Adam Pickar of Fort Ripley. If they didn't fit, it was back to the computer.
Dave Lange and other Central Lakes College students used laptop computers to design the trucks they would make to specifications in order to fulfill project requirements.
The crucial test for fit involved the front frame, cab and box. Students had to make holes in each part through which a rod could pass with neither too much nor too little resistance after the trucks were assembled.
Other, smaller pins were required to fit strategically as proof of fit within the tolerance range.
Each truck was required to have identification serial numbers, which some applied in subtle fashion and others chose to display in embossed accent paint.
As well as feedback from layperson judges, the students received a critique from their teacher. Bissonette examined each model in the process, so as the various stages of each project arrived, the work was graded.
Logical dimensioning from the software printed onto a three-dimensional plotter earned five points. A perfect fit first time out earned five points, and so on.
The box on each truck was required to completely dump a load of marbles.
"They seemed to have fun," said Bissonette. "It was good to see them do the work so well, and some did a fair bit of work outside the classroom, too." That is made possible by laptop computers with the modeling software installed.
A fundamental advantage for the CLC students is the three-dimensional printer that industry knows as the rapid prototype, or "RP." This is the first full year of its use on the Staples campus, and next year Mechanical Drafting and Design students at the Brainerd campus also will have access.
Other students involved in the project were Jacob Schneider, Swanville; Jeremy Hoihjelle, Sauk Rapids; Mike Bodle, Deerwood; Ryan Davidson, Glenwood; Shawn Halverson, Aitkin; Peggy Sirucek, Leader; and Adam Converse and Matt Moilanen, Brainerd.
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