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Old Engineering Exercise Answered

Hello all!

I was just looking through various Maker projects, here and elsewhere, and was reminded of a collage engineering exercise I was told about growing up.  Apparently, they don't do it any more.  My education is only up to an Associates Degree in Drafting and Design, and I never got this at that level.

This exercise (near as I can remember) consisted of a student being given a piece of aluminum (I think) and a set of files, a caliper, and a few other small tools.  The student then had to turn the piece of aluminum into as near a perfect cube as they could, using only those tools.

Has anyone out there heard of this exercise before?  Maybe done it themselfs?

Namely wanted to through this out there, see what people thought.


My drafting teacher gave us the front view of a "building". We had to come up with the other two views and a 3/4 perspective. The view was a square with another smaller square inside it sharing only part of the lowest line with the larger square. I was the only student to ever draw the smaller square as a tunnel thru the larger square. MEEP MEEP!!!

I loved and hated those drawing exercises.
My teacher let us all try first, then discuss our more or less bad results and how we approched the problem.
Only after he came up with the right and often easy way of getting from 2D to a perspective view.

I think computer based learning is good but the manual use of brain, hands, paper and tools gives a far better learning experience.

It also give you a better foundation when you switch to the computer. Namely because you already have the basics, and understand the process & mechanics of what you're doing. Order of operations and the like, as most of that is the same between paper and PC. Also makes it much easier to figure out what happened when the computer screws up, and how to fix it.

Good job! And good to hear that there are still other schools actually teaching a basic, non-computer based, drafting class.

Sadly, mine closed down about three months after I graduated...

We used U-profiles made from 6mm+ thick steel.
The cube was abandoned as it does not offer enough training so to speak.
Here are the steps we had to take with theis U-profile:
1. Clean all surfaces and flatten them.
2. Bring the bottom to a thickness of 5mm and remoeve the rounding in the corners.
3. Bring the sidewalls to 5mm and a fixed height from the bottom.
4. Drill some holes, tap some threads.
From there it got seperated, we sparkies only added smaller bits and pieces to it while the learning metal workers integrated it as a prat of a hand press.
Mind you only hand tools and drill press were allowed and if mess something up at a later stage you had to start from scratch and waste your free time to catch up.
The tolerances we were allowed had been set to +- 0.2mm while the metal workers had to fit within 0.05mm tolerances.

Ah, thank you!

It's good to hear that there are still schools doing this. I seem to run into an unfortunate number of people who have an engineering degree, and/or a job in the field, who have never done anything that wasn't on a computer. Thus having little to no idea how A) fabrication really works, and B) how things work in the real world, rather than a perfect virtual environment. (yes I know that prototypes still happen, but it seems to be minimal at best. Which seems completely inexcusable considering how far rapid prototyping has come... I'll be good and not lunch into a rant on the subject... I'm guessing it would be preaching to the quire here ^_^)

Any-who, again, thanks for the info and outline!

These days everything is with computers but some schools still teach old school manual labour.
Mostly just on a tiny scale but better then none.
I already had a guy trying to send a machine part back because it had a burr in one area.
My only comment was "Did ever hear about an invention called a file or sandpaper? Come cheaper than posting it back, is faster and is exactly what the company would use to fix your problem..."
All I got in return was "What do you mean?" ...

Also, I just realized that I quire not choir at the end of that post... this is why sleep is important...

Wow, that's impressively bad. Not horridly surprising, but still.

Especially considering that they clearly had the tools and know-how to install the part, try it, find the problem, then remove it again. How can they be able to do all that, but not the less than one minute correction of: sand, file, or scrape it off. Depending on the material, and how bad the bur was, they could possibly even do it with a finger nail.

What's really sad for me is when I get impressed reactions when people, supposedly in the same field as me, when they find out I have basic milling and shop skills.

That and the argument, "Why go though the trouble of making and testing prototypes? You can just run all the same tests on the computer model." I got that, not only from other student, but from one of my instructors...

look at books by Alexander Weygers.

IIRC, it was a block of steel.

Thanks! I will look into those, always happy to find new references. ^_^

That was a benchwork exercise when I was training in machine shop engineering but mostly it was done by the sheet metal work guys. machinists had a similar exercise in stress reliving materials on the milling machines learing about how materials move when they are cut.

I recall watching a documentary on German apprenticeships. It may have been on the educational or vocational training system that exists there. They highlighted someone working in a machine shop and said they give you a bar of metal and spend days and days getting it to perfect size or shape. I think it was to reinforce the idea of precision and fine craftsmanship found in German engineering. Anyway, when I had wood shop in high school, we were graded on how perfect you can plane a chamfer or beveled edge along a big piece of wood while trying not to whittle down the dimensions of the board. And that's how you get to Carnegie Hall.