Haas Automation Machine tool builder helps Dutch school keep the faith

Editor: Eric Culp

The Leiden instrument-makers School (LiS) for precision technology in the Netherlands recently installed three Haas milling machines to help preserve its place as one of the country’s few schools that can train young people in both manual and CNC machining skills.

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Learning the ropes: Dutch students can prepare for a career in manufacturing at the school, one of the only places in the country that offers such an education.
Learning the ropes: Dutch students can prepare for a career in manufacturing at the school, one of the only places in the country that offers such an education.
(Source: Haas Automation)

CNC machining technology is advancing year for year. To ensure future generations are familiar with such technology when they enter the employment marketplace, education establishments must keep pace. A case in point can be seen at the Netherlands' LiS, situated in Leiden, approximately halfway between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

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Ensuring manufacturing remains a vocation

LiS is a vocational school that trains what it calls instrument-makers for research organisations, with particular links to the space industry. According to LiS, much of the research that is taking place in the Netherlands would be impossible without the technical knowledge, creativity and devices made by instrument-makers. With so much riding on the education of these important youngsters, a recent recommendation from a visitation committee advised LiS to introduce more CNC machining techniques into its curriculum. As a consequence, in November 2013, the LiS Engineering department installed three new Haas CNC milling machines: two Super Mini Mills and a VF1. According to Haas, the end result has been impressive for both students and also local employers, particularly as the Leiden area is a hotbed for the European space industry.

One must find money before spending it

Financing the investment proved a challenge, but not one beyond this forward-thinking vocational school. Aside from certain gifted funds from private individuals and foundations, LiS accrued the necessary capital by taking on high precision contract work for organisations such as ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, which is located just 5km away at Noordwijk. LiS also undertakes contracts for Leiden-based Dutch Space (an EADS Astrium company), a supplier of sub-systems for the European space industry.

Dick Harms, LiS Principal, said: “These parties, on the one hand, provide vital financial resources, while on the other hand, they keep in close contact with the training as they also employ students. In turn, the students get to perform real project work, under expert guidance, of course.”

Boosting the skill level for the future

As a result of its investment in Haas machine tools, which were supplied by the Haas Factory Outlet operated by Landré, near Utrecht, the Netherlands, LiS is now one of the few schools where students can pursue machining courses at a high level, both conventionally and using CNC. As Harms noted: “We are distinguishing ourselves from other training facilities because students learn by actually doing. Our conviction is that students first have to learn the subject manually and then on CNC. As a result, they can put their practical knowledge to use immediately when they start work in the business world.”

Haas said the choice of its equipment, in part, was made based on the machines’ favourable cost/quality ratio and the good experience LiS gained from a previously installed Haas machine.

School decides to go with what it knows

Harms explained: “Once you have invested in tools and software, it does not make sense to purchase machines on which they no longer fit. Moreover, Haas, with the Super Mini Mill, is one of the few that offers an advantageous CNC machine for small assignments with the same features as a large machine.” He singled out some of the features. “The SK40 main spindle is also perfect for medium and light milling and finishing – students learn basic skills on this.”

Besides the two Super Mini Mills, LiS now also has a Haas VF-1 with travels of 508 x 406 x 508mm. This is a rugged, small-footprint vertical machining centre that yields reliability and accuracy via its 40-taper cartridge spindle. LiS Engineering students at level four now learn the principles of CNC milling using the VF-1.

“All of our students learn how to detail ideas in working drawings and how to manufacture the products themselves. In doing so, students develop a working relationship that connects well to higher professional or university education, and the manufacturing industry,” Harms said. “Aside from the space industry, students completing courses at LiS find careers in sectors that include life sciences and health.”

At present, around 50 students from LiS Engineering graduate every year, with a number advancing to university or professional training in dual education. The good news is that registrations are increasing, boding well for graduate numbers moving forward.