84 Replies Latest reply on Sep 12, 2017 7:54 AM by Doug Seibel

    What's the best way to get shop experience?

    Eric Eubanks

      I've seen many posts here that say I need shop experience to really get good at solidworks.

       

      I've thought about getting a job at a shop. Is there something I could do that doesn't require extra schooling or experience?

      I have tried to visit a shop class for composites at my school. They just said they don't have time for me.

      The class I'm in teaches many things. Composites, molds, sheet metal, etc. I don't know where I can get experience in everything so I can decide which one I want to focus on. Or is just shop experience in general going to help?

        • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
          Glenn Schroeder

          If you really want to learn get a part time job at a place that fabricates some product you're interested in designing (assuming you're old enough and have time).

          • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
            Christian Chu

            You can start by asking for internship - many companies have open for this kind of training job

            • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
              Todd Blacksher

              I would recommend looking into a local MakerSpace, and start calling around to see if you can take tours at some local companies.

              An Internship or part time job would be the best way to get some experience.

              • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                Dan Pihlaja

                Google "us department of labor apprenticeship"

                 

                I tried to link it, but it is being moderated and I think that maybe the admins are moving slowly.  Its ok though, they have things to do....I understand.

                 

                That being said, if you look up the apprenticeship program, I think that this might be the best thing.  Basically, you get paid while learning and doing a service for a company.

                 

                Out Our company has an apprenticeship program.

                • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                  Eric Eubanks

                  In a shop will I get experience that will be useful for all features of solidworks or just specific things?

                    • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                      Todd Blacksher

                      The more you learn about how things are made, the better designer you will be in the future.

                      I learned more from grumpy press brake guys than I ever learned in school!

                      • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                        Jim Steinmeyer

                        The biggest thing you will get is the understanding of how things are made so when you go to model something in SW you will have an idea as to if it can be made with the machines in your shop. Another thing you will gain is the understanding that just because you can zoom in on an item and have lost of room to manipulate the part, there may not be that much room in real life.

                        • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                          Christian Chu

                          You'll figure it out when you're there. Its best thing about doing internship

                          • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                            Dan Pihlaja

                            There are many different types of manufacturing.  Very rarely will a company do them all.....or even more than one.

                             

                            There is Mold making for Injection molds

                            There is Tool and Die for Stamped metal

                            There is Turning/lathe work for round parts

                            There is general machining (CNC/manual 3/4/5 axis) for parts (mostly metal)

                            There is precision grinding

                            There is Wire and Plunge EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining)

                            There is ECM (Electro Chemical Machining)

                             

                            And this is just a few...there is a LOT more. (I have only listed the ones that I have had some experience with.

                             

                            Then on top of that, you have the difference between

                            Product design (end product design)

                            manufacturing design (designing the doohickey that makes the product)

                             

                            Basically, you need to figure out where you want to put your stake....  I still think that a good place to start is an apprenticeship.  Then you can branch out from there.

                             

                            The thing that I had trouble with when I started out (and I suspect that you are having the same trouble), is that you can see so many paths that it is hard to pick and you want to experience it all.

                            But the thing that I had to learn the hard way is that, (assuming that you are approximately 20 years old) you have more than 40 years to figure that out.  You have to start somewhere.  Just jump in.....

                            Don't fall into the "analysis paralysis" trap.

                              • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                Eric Eubanks

                                My school is having me experience it all in solidworks. So I'll want to have experience in everything so I can do better in school.

                                 

                                Or would it be better if for example I finish the composites part of my school, get a job in composites, then just drop out of school and get a job doing composites in solidworks?

                                  • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                    Dan Pihlaja

                                    Eric Eubanks wrote:

                                     

                                    My school is having me experience it all in solidworks. So I'll want to have experience in everything so I can do better in school.

                                     

                                    Or would it be better if for example I finish the composites part of my school, get a job in composites, then just drop out of school and get a job doing composites in solidworks?

                                    I would never tell anyone to drop out of school.  You never know what you will learn there. 

                                     

                                    I don't really know what would be better for you.  Maybe get a tour of some of the shops in your area to see what they do.  Then decide from there.   Sometimes the best gem is the one you don't expect to find.

                                    • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                      Dan Pihlaja

                                      Let me digress:

                                      In a previous post I told you that I didn't have a degree and that I am not certified.

                                      I don't want you using that statement as a reason NOT to get a degree.

                                       

                                      Please let me explain:

                                       

                                      My story is that I started out going to college toward a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering.  However, I made a LOT of poor choices.  one of those poor choices was to use the money that was given to me for college and spend it on alcohol.  That essentially forced me to drop out of college after about 2.5 years.   After that, I started out almost homeless and regretting my decisions.

                                      It took almost another 10 years for me to get my act together. 

                                       

                                      Now I can look back and see how the experiences in my life have brought me where I am now.   However, YOU don't have to make the same poor choices that I did, and your path will look much different than mine (or anyone else's).

                                       

                                      Therefore, it is a great thing that you want to get all the experience that you can.  Are you working toward a specific degree?

                                    • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                      Todd Blacksher

                                      Everything Dan said, and then some!

                                      This is why an apprenticeship is such a good thing - you get to see a lot of different things, and go from there.

                                      As you go through your career, it is likely that you will go from one industry to another - if you love to learn, this will be a lot of fun for you.

                                      There is a good chance that you could end up somewhere that makes something that you have no idea even existed until you walk in the door!

                                  • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                    Paul Risley

                                    Eric where are you located? The shop experience most people are talking about is some kind of machine shop.

                                    • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                      John Stoltzfus

                                      My opinion, machine shop experience would be my number one pick, to learn the basics and then fabrication...

                                      • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                        Francisco Martínez

                                        I say machine shop too, I have had a lot of jobs over the years and all of them in machine shops.

                                         

                                        I can remember we always had a shop helper ad going in most of the shops. most of the time the person does general cleaning and most of the easy work like sawing, grinding, ect.

                                         

                                        I went backward with my schooling, I started off making great money welding and I just would take 1-2 classes a year. I focused on the

                                        areas I was lacking and was able to be successful. I had a forced career change and that kicked me into finishing school.

                                         

                                        Stay in school is the best advice you will ever hear.

                                        • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                          Eric Eubanks

                                          Do I have to do an apprenticeship though my school? Or do I just go to a shop and apply?

                                          • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                            Dennis Dohogne

                                            Eric,

                                             

                                            You have some great replies here and your attitude toward getting experience is commendable.  The expression "Jack of all trades, master of none" is not used as a compliment.  About the only place you'll get a taste of everything is in some classes or in a very, very large company that is vertically integrated (they do it all in-house).  Thus, you should start with making some good choices.  What interests you?  Look for companies that use those technologies.  For good, general knowledge a machine shop is a superb place.  When you really learn how parts are milled and turned on a lathe and you scrape your hands a few times doing the stuff you learn a lot that is applicable to may other industries.  However, not every optimal choice is available so you have to make smart compromises.  No machine shops around or none willing to let you work with them?  Try other fabrication companies such as woodworking, cabinet making, even sheet metal shops.

                                             

                                            If a person is willing to learn and they are smart enough to recognize good concepts and practices then what they learn in one industry will usually benefit them in others.  I've done many, many different things in my career, from being a lubricants engineer, to designing weighing scales, police lights, power tools, industrial fans, and specialty machines for the paper industry.  Every position I have held has benefited from all my previous experience.  I tell folks I learned two main things in school:  How to learn, and how to think (not what to think).

                                             

                                            When you see how something is done you should not only tuck that away for future reference, you should ask yourself why that way is better than what you might have done.  Look for the pros and cons of different techniques.  Are fixtures used to make the item?  What is the order of operations to make the part?  Do not neglect the importance of considerations for assembly!

                                             

                                            If you ever get the chance you should take a class in DFMA (Design For Manufacturing and Assembly).

                                              • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                Dan Pihlaja

                                                There should be a "drop the microphone" emoticon....then you would only have to put it at the end of your statement, Dennis!  Well said.

                                                • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                  Todd Blacksher

                                                  Eric,

                                                  Several of us have worked in a lot of different industries throughout our careers, and my story is similar to Dennis Dohogne -

                                                  I got my start designing antennas for cellular phones (you see, back before you were born, cell phones had antennas that pulled up - just kidding, and I'm OLD.)  This introduced me to high volume manufacturing (injection molding, machined parts, die cast parts, progressive die formed parts, automation, etc.) Then I started doing interiors for corporate and private aircraft. So I basically went from something that I could hold in my hand, to something that I could walk around in. (This was the complete opposite of high volume manufacturing, everything was custom - composite materials, laminates, veneers, fabrics, special fasteners, and so on.) Then it was on to water distillation and bottling equipment. (lots of automation, PLC, sheet metal, etc.) My love of SOLIDWORKS took me to the local SOLIDWORKS Reseller (VAR) - teaching, demonstrating, and providing tech support - this was pretty incredible. Now I design laboratory test equipment for the baking industry as a small division of a large fabrication facility.

                                                  Every one of these places had different equipment to make the end product - I've dealt with EDM's, mills, lathes, water jet, lasers, tube lasers, press brakes, ultrasonic welders, welding robots, stick welding, injection molding machines, cnc routers, sand blasting, powder coating, the list goes on and on.

                                                  The important thing is that it has all been an awesome education, and I learned as much as I could at each place.

                                                  Stay flexible, and know that you can learn from anything and anyone . . .

                                                  (Remember, learning the wrong way of doing something is STILL learning.)

                                                • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                  Glenn Schroeder

                                                  I agree with Dan that Dennis made some excellent points.  I'd like to add one thing if I may.  He said "you should ask yourself why that way is better than what you might have done".  In a similar vein, also always ask yourself "Is there a better way to do this?"  I'm always amazed at the number of people that keep doing something the same old way because that's how they've always done it, when that may have never been the better way, or if it was, circumstances have changed so that it isn't now.

                                                    • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                      Dennis Dohogne

                                                      Glenn Schroeder wrote:

                                                       

                                                      I agree with Dan that Dennis made some excellent points. I'd like to add one thing if I may. He said "you should ask yourself why that way is better than what you might have done". In a similar vein, also always ask yourself "Is there a better way to do this?" I'm always amazed at the number of people that keep doing something the same old way because that's how they've always done it, when that may have never been the better way, or if it was, circumstances have changed so that it isn't now.

                                                      I should have remembered to put that in.  Thanks, Gene.

                                                       

                                                      I actually had a great experience driving home that very point when I worked at McDonnell Aircraft making F-15s and F/A-18s.  We were implementing some new procedures and getting some resistance from some senior shop guys.  They said something to the effect:  "Well, we didn't do it that way on the F-4 and we made over 5,000 of those planes here."  I told him "Yes, but it takes special ground support equipment, eight guys, and six hours to change out an engine on an F-4.  The F-4 even has different engines for left and right.  On the F/A-18 two guys with simple ground support equipment can move the left engine to the right in only 20 minutes.  Do you still want to do things the old way?"  He was then willing to give it a good try and became one of our best testimonials.  It just proved the old adage "There are only two types of people that like change: a baby with a full diaper, and a motorist with a flat tire."

                                                      • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                        Edward Poole

                                                        Eric, if you hear that, you may want to think about moving on...But, on the flip side, maybe they've tried numerous different ways of doing something and always came back to the same "best process", thus, that's the way they've always done it. Never be afraid to simply ask "why?", chances are, us older guys will be happy to explain "why we do what we do"! I'm always learning something new every day, always looking for a better way to do it, collaborating with other departments to come up with new "best practices", nowadays, you need to constantly reinvent ways of doing things to maintain or improve the bottom line as well as staying competitive in the marketplace.

                                                      • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                        Jeff Mowry

                                                        There's also "How It's Made":

                                                        How It’s Made - YouTube

                                                         

                                                        When I was in school we didn't have internet (yet).  So self-teaching was a LOT more difficult at the time.  However, our design program DID have dedicated classes on Manufacturing, Materials, and Plastics.  Epic primer into how things are created in production environments, so when I saw that stuff in real life I wasn't so new to it---and I started off with a basic knowledge on lots of manufacturing techniques.  You might even find an old text book on the topic, or better, some web sites that teach the same (for free).

                                                          • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                            Dennis Dohogne

                                                            Jeff Mowry wrote:

                                                             

                                                            There's also "How It's Made":

                                                            How It’s Made - YouTube

                                                             

                                                            .

                                                            Two places I worked that I know of were featured in "How It's Made".  Terrific program for learning about a lot of stuff!

                                                            • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                              Eric Eubanks

                                                              I've been watching a few episodes of how its made.

                                                                • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                                  Jeff Mowry

                                                                  Perfect---hope you find it useful.  After a while you can develop a knack for finding specific types of things you're interested in.

                                                                   

                                                                  I do lots of plastic part design.  My wife often finds me in stores and other locations, focused on a plastic part, attempting to figure out how they molded some feature or such.  One thing I've found that's handy when first starting with injection molded stuff is the Design Cube from Proto Labs (used to be ProtoMold):

                                                                  Proto Labs: Design Aids

                                                                   

                                                                  Their other widgets are cool, too, in showing the various components or features that can be inexpensively molded into plastic parts.  If you study these things you'll see better (cheaper) ways of doing things than might otherwise first come to mind when designing parts.  These are an excellent, quick way to gain a huge amount of info when starting out.

                                                                  • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                                    Rick Becker

                                                                    Eric Eubanks wrote:

                                                                    I've seen many posts here that say I need shop experience to really get good at solidworks.

                                                                    Getting good at SW is just a pleasant side benefit.

                                                                    You need shop experience to understand how people manufacture things. How to put holes in things. How to shape things. As you learn these things Hands-On, you will also understand size and tolerance and surface finish and hardness and speeds & feeds and strength or materials and about a million more things.

                                                                    SolidWorks is all about designing things, real things. If you don't make it then you are just an artist and there are much better tools to do art.

                                                                     

                                                                    Eric Eubanks wrote:

                                                                    I've thought about getting a job at a shop. Is there something I could do that doesn't require extra schooling or experience

                                                                    Yes. I started at a State Technical High School in the Machine/Tool Trade. As soon as I turned 16 I worked really hard at getting a job in the trade. I got a job at a small local manufacturing company (think 5 or 6 employees) that made a proprietary machine that put coatings on sheet stock at a really high rate of speed.

                                                                    Know what I did there? I cleaned machines, swept the floor, oiled the machines, emptied the garbage. I always kept one eye on my task and one eye on whatever was being done around me. I offered to help whenever I thought I could help. I talked up my hands-on experiences at school and at home with my father. In not too long of a time I was asked if I thought I could drill and tap this header on my own. Yes Sir! I know I can! And I did. In less than a month of part time after school working I was declared a machinist by virtue of my actions. I'll tell you the rest of the story later.

                                                                     

                                                                    Eric Eubanks wrote:

                                                                    I have tried to visit a shop class for composites at my school. They just said they don't have time for me.

                                                                    You either need to take that class, find a better way to convince them that working with you will benefit them or find another school.

                                                                     

                                                                    Eric Eubanks wrote:

                                                                    ...Or is just shop experience in general going to help?

                                                                    Yes shop experience will help.

                                                                    In my opinion it is one of the Only ways that will help.

                                                                    Any hands-on experience will help, you don't want to learn only a vertical niche method.

                                                                    You want general experience. It is all tied together.

                                                                     

                                                                    Eric Eubanks wrote:

                                                                     

                                                                    Or would it be better if for example I finish the composites part of my school, get a job in composites, then just drop out of school and get a job doing composites in solidworks?

                                                                     

                                                                     

                                                                     

                                                                     

                                                                    I'm not working towards a degree. My school is more of a vocational/trade school. So I'm just learning solidworks. Nothing else.

                                                                    I am going to step over a line here.

                                                                    Erik, you need a different school. The description of your school sounds like it is one of those Adult Education Courses school that will teach you some very specific things, but certainly not what is needed for a broad life-long career in manufacturing.

                                                                     

                                                                    Normally my advice is never drop out of school. If you start something, finish it. Any degree will be useful in your working career/life. Some will take you farther that others. I'm suggesting you find a school that can give you a foundation better suited to a career.

                                                                     

                                                                    I will end this with a bit of experience I learned.

                                                                    Trade school and college thought much of themselves. They believed that a student that completes their course and graduates will be ready for a life long career in some specific degree.

                                                                    How wrong the whole school paradigm is. Whenever I worked in a real manufacturing environment where what mattered is producing components to print and on time, I learned just how much school was full of theory.

                                                                    That's why you need to get into the real world.

                                                                     

                                                                    Good luck Erik. I know you will be hugely successful. You have the right attitude and ask the right questions.

                                                                • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                                  Logan Atkins

                                                                  Does your school participate in any of the CDS (collegiate design series) events? If they do you can get great experience there. A lot of the teams use composites on their projects. I did baja sae and it was a fantastic learning experience. If your school doesn't have these programs you should still look thru any school clubs/teams for anything that has to design and build something

                                                                  • Re: What's the best way to get shop experience?
                                                                    Doug Seibel

                                                                    If you have not already...I highly recommend that you become part of the Solidworks User Group in your area.  Get to know the people, find out the various companies in the area that are using Solidworks.  Networking with the other Solidworks users in your area is a great way to learn more, see more, and open up more doors of opportunity.

                                                                     

                                                                    SolidWorks User Group Network

                                                                     

                                                                    They are having a get-together on Thursday, 9/14/17...from 5pm to 8pm.