The Family Game Night Alternative

ACE Program Success Stories

Caiden Britt stands next to a CNC machine.

March 28, 2024 – When 13-year-old Caiden Britt saw a 3D printer online, he was hooked.

“I really wanted to 3D-print the Eiffel Tower,” he said. “It looked pretty cool.”

Although 3D printers have become more affordable in recent years, Caiden needed some deeper pockets to buy one. He turned to the one person who could help him get it: his dad, Joshua Britt.

Joshua has made a career in metal fabrication for nearly a decade and recently enrolled at Alamance Community College to upskill. One of his instructors mentioned America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) to him – and that’s when the light bulb lit up.

“I told Caiden there was a class coming up that shows the process for setting up a CNC milling machine and programming the part in the software,” Joshua said. “He was quick to point out that the CNC mill was not a 3D printer. I assured him that the process is very similar and that [a CNC can machine] parts out of metal and plastic. At that point he was super interested in attending and couldn’t wait for class to start.”

ACE walks through the differences between additive and subtractive manufacturing. 3D printing is an additive technique that builds up material, while subtractive manufacturing starts with a block of material and removes what’s not needed to make the desired part.

Joshua and Caiden started attending weekend ACE classes in January. Among their favorite parts of the camp – including setting up the machine and assembling the air engine participants make – was the opportunity to show Caiden how 3D printing intersects with the subtractive side of machining.

3D-printed parts often need some form of finishing to meet the necessary specifications and tolerances. ACE students work with a 3D-printed valve block as they build their air engines. Caiden says it was “pretty cool” to see how CNC machining helped transform the stock into its final form.  

Joshua pointed out to Caiden how machining the part was not only cool but critical – otherwise, the part may not function properly.

Another part of the fun – especially for Caiden – was seeing other cross-applications between machining and 3D printing.

“We had to program the part, make the model with CAD and utilize the CAM software to make the part,” Joshua said. The parallels of additive and subtractive machining became clear for Caiden.

The bootcamp also provided them with a great bonding opportunity – perhaps the new family game night alternative.

“Doing stuff together is always cool. It was father and son time,” Joshua said. “The fun part was watching the machine and making and assembling our own parts [together].”

Joshua and Caiden Britt pose for a picture after completing an ACE bootcamp at Alamance Community College
Joshua and Caiden pose for a picture with ACE trainers.

Joshua says ACE training put into perspective exactly how much time is invested into machining from start to finish. It’s his goal to become quicker with making models and setting up programs. He’s looking to get a drafting technology degree – and after going through America’s Cutting Edge, possibly a machining degree.

“My goal is to get into an office setting,” he said. “But I want to freshen up on all my skills.”

As for Caiden, he’s got some time before deciding on where he wants his career to go. He and Joshua have made artificial intelligence a focus of conversations about his future – and it seems like machining may be in the cards.

“It does seem like an AI-proof job,” Caiden said. “Machining is a critical industry.”

But as for the immediate future, one burning question remains: Will there be a 3D printer in the house soon?

“There might be this year, yes,” Joshua said, with a laugh. “There definitely will be. Or a Haas desktop mill. That’s a little more expensive, but I’ll just cancel the motorcycle I wanted to buy.”

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