Minnesota’s Major Mobile Machining Milestone

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Minnesota’s Major Mobile Machining Milestone

The Minnesota ACE trailer sits on campus at St. Cloud State University.

June 7, 2024 – It’s an alliteration of a title – yet also a crystal-clear conclusion about the newest effort to revitalize domestic machining.

For months, America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) partner St. Cloud State University (SCSU) has meticulously chipped away at crafting a mobile machining classroom – something that will bring the flagship ACE CNC machining training to the doorsteps of businesses, educational institutes and other locations.

“There’s a critical shortage in the workforce,” said Kurt Helgeson, SCSU professor of environmental and technological studies. “It’s an opportunity to expose people to the types of manufacturing careers out there – by bringing the training to them.”

The St. Cloud State University Husky Express – as it’s formally named – is a full-size semi-trailer, 56 feet long and 21 feet wide with the bump outs. It’s outfitted with everything needed to give someone an introduction to a machining career or learn new skills in their manufacturing jobs.

ACE trainer Mike Sundblad at the CNC mill inside the Minnesota ACE trailer.
St. Cloud State University ACE trainer Mike Sundblad works at the CNC mill inside the trailer.

As you step into the confines of the renovated semi-trailer, a curious look around showcases a somewhat simulated shop floor in a shockingly sizable space. You’ll find a Haas Compact CNC Mill, nearly a dozen computers for CAD/CAM work, Haas simulators, a robotic arm and a 3D printer.

It’s everything you need to meet people where they are.

“Everyone today is used to not having to travel far to do things,” said Mike Sundblad, SCSU assistant professor of environmental and technological studies and ACE trainer. “You have phones that bring you anywhere. When it comes to machining, bringing this trailer somewhere and letting people experience working with the equipment is really cool.”

That will especially be effective as SCSU delivers the trailer to remote and rural parts of Minnesota – areas that traditionally may find more difficulty in getting access to exposure and training.

SCSU also has the Technology Engineering and Careers (TEC) Network at their disposal. This will empower K-12 training for teachers and students. In fact, they’re already slated to begin training teachers soon.

An ACE logo on the Minnesota trailer sits in the background of this shot with leaves in the foreground.
The trailer will roll out across Minnesota to do ACE training.

So, what’s the end result from all of this? Companies upskilling their employees on-site and younger audiences being exposed to what modern manufacturing actually looks like.

That’s also why it’s critical that this mobile unit hits the road – so it can dispel false assumptions of what manufacturing looks like.

“Everybody used to think about it as dark, dirty and dangerous,” said Helgeson. “Now, it’s high-tech. It’s bright. In a lot of the plants, you could eat off their floors because they’re so clean.”

Before you step onto the trailer, make sure to register and complete the ACE CNC machining online course. Choose your preferred online pathway and get started now.

For more information, contact Helgeson at krhelgeson@stcloudstate.edu.

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