Techno CNC Systems

GET QUOTETechno Educational CNC Routers Brochure
   CNC Router

     Educational Success Stories

Success in Schools – Read CNC Router Application ArticlesAffordable Precision Educational CNC Router

eMail us at

Race into the Future!
A CAD/CAM/CNC-Based Process

davinci2.gif (24632 bytes)

Recent innovations in hardware and software have opened new horizons in the way technology educators can approach the curriculum. As our world becomes increasingly more high tech, fast paced, and competitive, many middle and high school teachers have decided to update parts of their manual technology programs with automated technology. One good example involves transforming the C02 car curriculum into a CAD/CAM/CNC based process.

The DaVinci XYZ System

The C02 curriculum has traditionally served as an early exposure to technology for middle and high school students. The activity begins with students receiving a kit with a block of wood, four wheels, two axles, and a booklet that gives design parameters and process instructions. Each student then studies design principles, carves a car body, assembles the car, and races it in the school gym. 

car3.gif (15795 bytes)Although this activity has proved motivational and successful, it can be improved by updating the design and production process with CAD/CAM/CNC (computer-aided drafting/computer-aided manufacturing/computer numerical control). This approach teaches the skills needed in high-tech manufacturing careers and stimulates student interest.

Benefits of CNC. Students will work hard for something they want to own. Few at the middle school level have the carving skills needed to produce a good product from raw stock. Some lose interest when they see that they can’t compete with other students who have more shop experience or access to tools at home. Frustration arises when expectations exceed abilities. Early failures can steer students away from pursuing a technology career. Thus, the very mechanism that teachers use to motivate students toward work in technology may backfire if it produces disappointing early experiences. The use of CAD/CAM/CNC can "level the playing field" and motivate students.

car1.gif (23631 bytes)

With a CNC machine doing the carving, cars come out perfectly bilateral and even the wildest designs can achieve the "concept car" look.


Students want these cars, and they know that winning this activity depends more on their minds than their hands. Fortunately, technology has advanced to a point where students can delegate laborious manual tasks to a machine. Producing high-quality projects no longer requires superior dexterity. Also, if the C02 competition is a public event, the sharp appearance of high-tech race cars will give a good impression to parents and the public. 

More than 50 middle and high school technology education programs in south Florida have converted to building C02 race cars with CAD/CAM/CNC, using Techno’s IMS C02 system. With the system, students can produce C02 metric 500 cars in less than an hour. The cars not only satisfy Technology Student Association (TSA) specifications, but they also have placed high in state, regional, and national competitions. In the 1996 TSA national competition, juniors with CAD/CAM/CNC cars placed first and third. A highly motivated and enthusiastic special education student took fourth place. In the 1997 competition, four CAD/CAM/CNC-produced cars placed in the top 10, with one taking first place.

Background: The concept of producing C02 cars with CAD/CAM/CNC has been possible for years, though not plausible. CAD systems could describe complex 3-D shapes, but it took too long to get a student up to speed to draw a car. CAM systems could generate the toolpath, but problems

car4.gif (33987 bytes)
arose in cutting out a car from the top, because the cutter got buried too deep and there was little or no side definition. Cutting from the side addressed tool burial concerns, but it posed indexing problems. 

CNC machines could cut a car, but slow feeds and speeds made the process so time consuming that not everyone in the class could use it. No text existed for guiding students through all of the integrated processes.

Three companies, CNC Software (Mastercam), Techno, and IMS Technologies have worked together to address these challenges. The technology has come of age and pricing has fallen to under $10,000 for a complete system. One package can process an entire class, though some instructors add additional software stations to allow more experimentation with design.

How the process works:

car2.gif (24263 bytes)
Software and template. The part is designed and toolpathed, and NC-code is generated in Mastercam integrated CAD-CAM software. The average student can quickly design complex 3-D shapes because of a software template system and curriculum developed by IMS Technologies.

The template is a file that resides in the CAM software and coaches the student through the design process. It gives the student a cross-sectional slice through the C02 blank, every inch showing what to avoid. The student simply draws one-half of the cross-section shape of the C02 car by charting points with the mouse. The software then creates a spline through those points. The student changes levels, changes depth, hides the old template, and activates the new one. 

After all the cross sections are drawn, the part is mirrored to complete the design and then rendered. The rendered image lets the student check the design form and determine whether it meets TSA specifications. A window is put around the cross sections and the toolpath is generated.

The generated toolpath is for the right side of the car. This toolpath is mirrored to produce the left-side toolpath. Two toolpaths are necessary as the car is cut from the right side then indexed to the left side. Precision indexing is the key to cutting the car from the side.

The fixture. A fixture is integral to the success of this process. Cutting the car from the side eliminates cutter burial problems, and the fixture addresses indexing problems.

The C02 canister hole on the blank is placed on a shaft on the back of the fixture, and the shaft is pushed forward. The front of the blank fits in a holder on the front of the fixture. A few taps with a soft-blow hammer secures the blank. The car is machined on one side, then the fixture is loosened, indexed 180, and the other side is machined. This produces a bilaterally perfect car.

The CNC machine.

davinci.gif (31856 bytes)

The DaVinci CNC machine works well for making C02 cars. It  has a work envelope and feedrates (140 ipm) that produce C02 cars efficiently enough to run the whole class through the        curriculum. The average car takes from 8 to 10 minutes per side at 80 ipm. An average educational machine that has feedrates of 10-15 ipm would take 80 minutes or longer. The machine has a high 24,000 rpm spindle that machines wood well. Like industrial machines, it has ball screws on all three axes, which increases power and accuracy.


The curriculum. The IMS C02 curriculum integrates all aspects of the procedure from machine and fixture setup to software instructions. Students and teachers receive instructional training videos and curriculum guides, step-by-step instructions for assemble and use, clamps, fixtures, and software. The basic system includes CAD software. CAM toolpath generation software, and a CNC machine. 

The CAM software eliminates hand carving by creating tooling instructions for the CNC machine, based on the CAD drawing specifications. The three-axis CNC machine performs the manual labor with precision, speed, and reliability. The only manual work left for students is finishing touches, such as light sanding, painting the car, and adding wheels. This approach saves students time and lets them focus on learning new skills and experimentation.

The speed of the CNC machine also allows students to produce more than one race car, experimenting with different materials and designs and testing aerodynamic differences. This freedom to experiment encourages innovative thinking, creative problem solving, and collaborative brainstorming efforts. This activity results in students learning transferable skills by using the same prototype and design software and machines found in high-tech industrial workplaces. Students also benefit from having the luxury of performing trial-and-error learning and discovery.

Other options. Advanced secondary students can go beyond defining their cars with simple cross-sectional slices. Cars can be designed using full surface modeling, which allows for greater detail and more variation in shape.

Students might also take on the engineering challenge of designing a car/boat/plane body. Here, they would take into consideration the particular requirements of each type of vehicle: 

car5.gif (8895 bytes)
Car – The most critical design factor here is weight, then aerodynamic shape, then friction and alignment of mechanical parts, wheels, and axles. Points would be awarded for speed.


Boat – The first consideration is hydrodynamic shape (water flow), then the amount of water the shape displaces, then the placement of the mast. The boat competition would use the same C02 body, with a spent C02 cartridge as ballast. A mast hole would be drilled into the bottom of the car to hold a standard sail. The race would take place in a vinyl rain gutter filled with water, and the student would provide power with air from a portable fan. Points would be awarded for speed and straightness of course.


plane1.gif (22074 bytes)
Plane – The critical design factor is placement of the wings at the center gravity, then trimming of the tail, body shape, and fuselage. The C02 cartridge would be removed for this competition and a special plug, with tail fin support and adjustment mechanism, would be placed in the hole. The body would be slotted to accept prefabricated wings. The wings would slide forward and back to adjust for center of gravity. Competition would use a mechanical launcher and points would be awarded for straightness of flight and distance. 

  Techno is celebrating over 25 years of CNC technology expertise. Our Educational sector provides industrial quality products at educational prices with a network of award-winning Educators. We can provide CNC Curriculums, CNC Projects, Technical Information and Packages for any educational classroom.
Copyright ©  Techno CNC Systems, LLC. All rights reserved.