Case Study

Loughborough University uses NX, Teamcenter and Learning Advantage to help develop skilled and employable engineering graduates

Loughborough University

Ninety-six percent employed or doing graduate work thanks to outstanding teaching and Siemens PLM Software solutions

Launchpad for engineers of tomorrow

A degree from the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Loughborough University opens the door to a fulfilling career. A survey conducted six months after students graduated in 2013 showed that 96 percent of those available for work were either employed full-time or pursuing further academic study. One of the factors behind this high percentage and a major benefit of attending Loughborough University is the opportunity to participate in a 12-month accredited industrial placement. For example, in the academic year 2013/2014, 142 undergraduate students spent one year of monitored, paid training with 91 United Kingdom and international companies.

The Wolfson School is a leader in mechanical and manufacturing engineering education, and is equipped with powerful computers, workshops, laboratories and a dedicated additive manufacturing center. With 1,200 undergraduate and postgraduate students supported by more than 130 academic, technical and administrative staff, it has a reputation for research and innovation as well as strong links to multinational businesses. Robb Doyle, university teacher in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, says “Our goal is to develop students into young engineers who have the skills to work effectively in industry.”

Another key benefit for engineering students at Loughborough University is the chance to learn industry-standard applications by using software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software, such as computeraided design (CAD) and PLM. The Wolfson School has 500 seats of NX™ software and 250 licenses of Teamcenter® software supported by Majenta PLM, a Siemens PLM Software United Kingdom platinum partner.

Software in action

“We are longstanding users of NX, which we originally chose for its strength in manufacturing,” continues Doyle. “Because of our focus on both design and manufacturing, we particularly wanted one interface that we could use throughout the development process. We also aim to give students transferable skills. With an industry-leading application such as NX, we can teach the core principles of CAD, which students can apply to any system they are expected to use.”

New students learn how to use NX for modeling in the first semester. In the second semester, they are already working on their own projects, which they have to present using NX. In their second year, students begin to focus on stress analysis with NX CAE (for advanced simulation) coupled with NX CAM (for manufacturing) as they use the software to work on assigned designs. “The intention is to connect simulation with real-life testing so we get students to manufacture and test their own designs,” says Doyle. “We find that this task really underlines the principles of engineering and is valuable preparation for industrial placements.”

He notes that when students return to the university for their third year, they are much more mature and able to use NX for advanced surface modeling combined with manufacturing, thus consolidating their knowledge and skills.

“It is at this stage that we can meaningfully introduce Teamcenter via group work,” says Doyle. “We know that we have the correct combination of academic and practical skills because of our industrial partnerships. Teaching is at its strongest in the industrially based projects carried out by groups of students in both the second-year and fourth-year masters programs. Here real-world problems are set, supervised and assessed by industry. Students cope well with solving these problems, and the solutions are frequently implemented by the supporting company.”

A showcase for young designers

The high quality of output by students is demonstrated by the fact that, in 2013 and 2014, four first-year engineers won the Siemens PLM Software Student Design Award, a monthly global competition. One of those was William Fazackerley, whose design for a Swiss Army® knife was featured in the Siemens PLM Software Global Image Gallery 2014.

“NX is very intuitive, clean and easy to understand, and since this project I have continued to use it extensively both in realizing the final products in design projects, and in further visualization work,” says Fazackerley. “NX underpins a lot of the detail design and manufacturing finalization I carry out as part of my degree.”

Alston Cheung, who also won the competition, chose to design a Leatherman Wave® multi-tool. He noted, “During the process of producing the designs in NX, I learnt that attention to detail is crucial to producing a good image, whether modeling or visualizing. Also, a well-organized file naming and sorting system contributes to a smooth workflow. I would recommend NX to another student because it is very intuitive and easy to pick up.”

Rob Hartley won the award in his first year for modeling and visualizing a product that would fit in a shoebox. He chose to design a clock.

“One challenge was freeform modeling of the stand for the clock as this had not been taught during tutorials, and learning how to do that has been especially useful,” says Hartley. “I used features such as extruding, use of datum planes and mirroring bodies. I also used visualization features extensively, including material editing, advanced and image-based lighting and stage selection.”

Learning to learn

“It is my responsibility to ensure that students are getting the latest technology and to encourage the concept of self-learning, particularly as this is such good preparation for work in industry,” comments Doyle. “Learning Advantage provided by Siemens PLM Software helps to fulfill both these remits.”

Learning Advantage is an online resource of interactive tutorials that students can refer to for click-by-click guidance. Loughborough University has 1,500 subscriptions and Learning Advantage is embedded in the curriculum. Every student workstation has two screens for efficient and effective learning: one for NX and one for Learning Advantage.

“NX is a comprehensive application, so we need good-quality training, and part of my job is to teach students how to use it,” says Doyle. “If I were producing my own materials I would have to spend time updating them regularly, but the richness of Learning Advantage frees up my tutorial time to focus on challenging engineering problems. When I am teaching advanced CAD processes such as complex surfaces, I can teach the fundamentals, set learning objectives, recommend a specific menu within Learning Advantage and know that students can continue to practice outside of class.”

A self-service menu

“I’ve found the Learning Advantage resources very helpful,” comments Fazackerley. “We used them extensively in tutorials when learning the basics; they give good clarity to so much that NX has to offer. They’re also very useful if you’re struggling to model something, as it’s almost certain that there will be a step-by-step guide and a tutorial in Learning Advantage that will give a much-needed push in the right direction.”

Cheung adds, “I really like the fact that the interactive tutorials are broken down into relatively short sections, so I can pick and choose the ones that I think will be helpful to me. The step-by-step instructions give very clear guidance, making the procedures easy to understand. The pictures and screen captures used allow me to know if I’ve done something correctly or not, which I find is very important when learning new features.”

“Learning Advantage was very helpful when I was first rendering and visualizing in NX,” notes Hartley. “The ability to do detailed rendering in NX has helped a lot in projects since then. The step-by-step teaching of a process can be used alongside our own modeling processes, or as part of coursework.”

Ready for the real world

Doyle notes, “NX provides a complete toolbox for design-to-manufacturing. It is an industry-standard application that enables students to develop advanced CAD skills and demonstrable employability.”

Hartley is clear proof of this: “I would definitely recommend NX to another student. It has extremely wide capabilities and I find it easy and intuitive to use. I have recently learnt how to program tool paths and do simulations with it. Having knowledge in NX has helped me to secure an industrial placement next year, too.”

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