Strengthening the present. Building the future.

America’s Cutting Edge (ACE)

program overview

Supported by the Dept. of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program

Program participants: IACMI – The Composites Institute| Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

Workforce pilot program partners: University of Tennessee, Knoxville | Pellissippi State Community College

Problem: Decline in U.S. machine tool capacity is significantly impacting national security & current resources do not address retiring workforce, limited pipeline, or inadequate training software

  • 27% of the manufacturing workforce will retire in the next decade
  • Only 3 in 10 parents say they would guide children toward a career in manufacturing because this career is not perceived as innovative, interesting, safe, or secure
  • Current computer aided manufacturing (CAM) simulation software is geometry-focused and neglects the process physics, so trial and error practices remain, reducing productivity and increasing cost

Solution: Create Innovation Moonshots for advancing machine tool capabilities & build a workforce training program that is industry-led and emphasizes creativity, innovation, & participant ownership

  • ORNL-Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) convened and hosted 2018 National Workshop to assess and develop response strategy
  • ORNL-MDF responds by adding key personnel and facility resources
  • IACMI and UTK create a novel training program to meet machine tool industry current and future workforce needs
  • IBAS supports creation of ACE to execute integrated innovation and workforce training initiatives for machine tools
ACE will build on IACMI’s extensive partner locations.

Program goals:

  • ORNL-MDF is unique national asset for advanced manufacturing innovation, including a strategic emphasis on machine tools – connecting all advanced manufacturing and serving as a critical enabler for greater deployment of composites
  • IACMI supports defining the dimensions of program implementation by coordinating efforts among partners, connecting partners to broader distribution networks (including Project MFG)
  • IACMI is building a local testbed for developing, deploying, and assessing innovation-related and scalable advanced manufacturing workforce development programming that includes an experiential component
  • Augmented training software will combine current CAM software with physics-based simulation app to inspire creativity and innovation graduates are not simply technicians, but are a new generation of creator-makers
  • Training program will utilize asynchronous virtual and concentrated physical delivery to increase and diversify participation and to optimize use of physical resources
  • Training program will scale deployment via partner networks to grow and connect participants and manufacturing community

Workforce Program Overview

ACE will increase awareness of innovation spaces, including ORNL-MDF and UTK through in-person and/or virtual tours. Program will also offer an introduction of greater context of machining with advanced manufacturing and non-traditional materials, emphasizing the importance of digital/virtual representations in optimizing physical space.

The ACE program will be piloted locally in Knoxville, TN and then deployed nationally through IACMI and ORNL’s extensive network of partners and members.

PART 1: 

An asynchronous program for CNC machining simulation program – similar in function to a flight simulator but contained on an individual’s laptop.

Program structured for community building with peer mentor structure of cohort, graduate students, and key faculty

Online content includes: 

  1.  Existing video modules to explain the use of CAM software
  2. New video modules to explain the augmented capabilities
  3. New video modules to provide background information on tap testing, machining vibrations, and chatter
  4. Assignments for example parts: participants will generate tool paths for each part using the augmented CAM experience


 A 32-hour, intensive, hands-on course to transition designs from the virtual simulation to real-life CNC machining.

Primary steps include: 

  1.  Upload the CAM program to the machine tool controller
  2. Gain familiarity with the controller
  3. Set up the part stock on the machine table
  4. Identify the coordinate system on the part stock
  5. Machine the part using the selected tooling
  6. Assess the machining performance for each part