For more than 12 years, Dan Kandray has served as an Associate Professor of the Mechanical
Engineering Department, College of Engineering and Polymer Science at UA. A professional engineer
with 36 years of industry experience, he has worked as a designer, manufacturing engineer, and
automation specialist. With nearly four decades in the engineering world, Kandray has had a front-row
seat to the fast-paced evolution of manufacturing technology.
“It’s hard to go back and remember how it was, because we take so much for granted,” he said. “When I
first started teaching CAD 25 years ago, I had to teach people how to save a file in a folder. That’s where
we were at that time. Now, students and people in industry are seasoned computer users. We can delve a lot deeper because more people have backgrounds with the technology.”
Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Technology
One program offered through the Mechanical Engineering department is Advanced Manufacturing
Engineering Technology, which helps students develop practical, hands-on skills needed for the
operation, programming, and implementation of advanced automated manufacturing technologies.
After earning an associate degree, a student may continue on to the Automated Manufacturing
Engineering Technology program to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Mastercam® CAD/CAM (CNC Software
LLC, Tolland, CT) courses are required in the bachelor’s degree program.
At UA, the technology programs are much more hands-on than traditional engineering courses,
according to Kandray. Mastercam courses are required for the program, but many students from the
Mechanical Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering programs choose to take Mastercam
courses as electives.
“As I tell students, these classes are probably going to be the most fun classes that they take during their university careers—I never had any tell me otherwise,” he said. “The classes are not easy, but they are extremely rewarding.”
Students in the program have access to 30 seats of Mastercam (17 of which are multiaxis), three new
Haas 3-axis Mini Mills, and a Haas VF2 TR 5-axis machine. They also have access to the Mechanical
Engineering Department’s Haas Super Mini Mill and Haas Lathe. More than 1400 students are enrolled
in UA’s Mechanical Engineering Department; 200 students are in MET technology; and 30 to 60 students are enrolled in the advanced program.
“It’s not huge, but it’s indicative of what we see in higher education,” said Kandray of the Advanced
Manufacturing Engineering Technology program. “A kid going to college will usually gravitate to classic mechanical engineering courses.
“Whenever you have a specialized program, you are faced with an extra challenge to attract people. For
a while, manufacturing didn’t have a great reputation. Not many people wanted to go into it. But now,
with all the programs that have sprung up over the years, we are seeing quite a resurgence. It’s
exciting.” Kandray credits high schools and career centers with steering people towards manufacturing
Two UA courses, CNC Programming I and CNC Programming II, focus exclusively on Mastercam
CAD/CAM software. Students begin with developing geometry through 2D for Solids. Then, they apply
toolpaths from 2D plane milling to 3D surfacing. By the end of the advanced class, they are learning 5-
axis programming. Kandray walks through CAD/CAM procedures and demonstrates features like 2D
drawing or adding toolpaths, then works through the processes with students, who later apply what
they learned to homework or lab activities. Learning at this pace keeps the content manageable and
helps students recognize the benefits of CAD/CAM.
In an ongoing effort to keep the curriculum manageable, Kandray focuses on standard toolpaths. For
example, students choose a roughing toolpath, typically a Dynamic toolpath, and use it for roughing
contours and pockets. The class walks through the process, completes parameter pages together, and
makes settings for equipment and the lab. That data is exported to an operations file. “Students have
operations files ready to go when they go to apply it,” said Kandray. “I find that it’s not so overwhelming
After roughing surfacing operations come finishing operations. In this advanced class, students conduct a lab and apply different finishing toolpaths. They machine parts with a variety of paths then analyze the differences in geometry. The lab illustrates machining options and correct choices for a given application.
“It has been working well, and we do similar exercises for all the labs,” said Kandray. “The students
design it, make it, post it, and run it on the machine.”
The vast majority of UA students are new to CAD/CAM software. Some may have been exposed to it in
high school but not at the level that the university program offers. According to Kandray, for most
students, to know the software is to love it.
“Of course, they love it—it’s really cool,” he said. A pre-requisite intro to CNC course serves as
everyone’s first CNC course; students learn CNC programming by writing G-code by hand.
“When they get to Mastercam, they’re usually mad at me because I made them write all this code by
hand and then they get to see the wonders of the software,” Kandray said. “They see how the
technology can expedite and vastly improve the capability. They are usually enamored with it once they
get into it.”
In fact, many students from other classes who see students working in CAD/CAM often become
interested in the software and end up taking the classes as electives.
As hands-on learning is a sure-fire way for students to gain and retain knowledge, class projects play a
major role in UA’s manufacturing technology programs. Most CAD/CAM-related homework and lab assignments require drawing a part in the software, developing toolpaths, posting code, and machining. This first exposure to Mastercam results in students learning to use the user interface, create geometry, and apply toolpaths to their projects. For the first project, students must create a key chain. The process includes developing a custom design and, through the use of CAD/CAM software, students come up with toolpaths.
The second class follows the same procedures. Students then learn how to create most surface finishing toolpaths. Kandray assigns specific toolpaths to students and each machines a part. Parts are then compared to illustrate the effectiveness of different toolpaths and reveal which paths are better for specific part configurations. A 5-axis toolpath application comes next.
“When performing 5-axis machining with a group of students, you don’t have much margin for error or
else you’ll crash the machine,” said Kandray. “But we have some incredibly capable students so it’s
always a lot of fun to do that.” He added that Verify and Backplot come in handy during his courses. Mastercam functions allow the user to view the finished part shape. Problems are addressed before parts are ever cut.
For a final project, students apply what they learned over the course to create a 5-axis project. They
develop code for all five sides and then perform full 5-axis contouring—usually simple 5-axis contouring because the department has one 5-axis machine and up to 12 students.
“I can’t have programs that run two hours long,” said Kandray. “Of course, CAD/CAM software helps.
That’s part of what they learn: how to optimize a toolpath to cut down the amount of time it takes to machine. Surfacing takes some time. We can only get so complicated and still make it manageable within the parameters of the class.”
Manufacturing technology is alive and well at the University of Akron.
So much so that creation of a new national research center for precision manufacturing center is underway, thanks to a generous grant
from the Timken Foundation (Canton, OH). In addition to a building remodel, UA is making a push to
offer more workforce development training with local industry in the areas of robotics, CNC machining,
and CNC programing courses.
“We envision offering Mastercam workforce development training, expanding courses to include non-
credit offerings,” said Kandray. “I would like to think we’re in tune with what’s going on in industry. Our students are our customers but, in the long run, providing local industry the talent that they need is very important to us.”
“Our graduate employability is just incredible,” he added. “I can’t think of any past students who want
to work in industry who are not. Northeast Ohio is a huge manufacturing region. There are many
manufacturing jobs available, and employers are in dire need of talent with relevant technology experience.”
University of Akron
At the University of Akron, faculty and staff are serious about their commitment to advancing
manufacturing education. Whether teaching engineering technology students or providing workforce
development for local industry, UA educates people using the most relevant, state-of-the-art industrial
technology available, including CAD/CAM software.
The University of Akron (UA) is a public research institution that focuses on
the polymer, advanced materials, and engineering industries. Situated on 218 acres within metropolitan Akron, OH, it offers more than 200 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and law degree programs.
Founded in 1870 as Buchtel College, the university grew alongside its industrial neighbors, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Firestone Tire and General Tire, and B.F. Goodrich Tire and, in 1909, offered the world’s first courses in rubber chemistry. Today, UA’s Polymer Science Institute is a global leader in the polymer field.