Local manufacturing workers gain skills at MCC’s new lab

Stock photo.

Behind the floor-to-ceiling glass entrance to Monroe Community College’s new optical fabrication laboratory, four advanced manufacturing workers and an MCC student are spending this summer gaining specialized skills most in demand by U.S. employers in the industry.  

The group is completing five weeks of training on a diamond-turning lathe — a $300,000 machine used to manufacture parts with nanoscale precision for autonomous vehicles, missile guidance systems, telescopes, TV projectors and other applications. 

The challenge Finger Lakes region employers face is finding optics technicians skilled in setting up and operating the machine. Through MCC’s workshop, area employers like IDEX Health and Science, Optimax Systems and Richardson Gratings are training employees to use this technology. 

“Diamond turning is an important and significant area within the optics field,” said Alexis Vogt, program chair and professor of optical systems technology, whose team developed the workshop. “Where we’re seeing diamond-turned parts is growing. Manufacturing companies are trying to buy more of these machines and, ultimately, they need technicians who know how to properly use them. Optics technicians with diamond-turning experience are in incredibly high demand across the U.S. Our goal is to train people so they can go back to their companies and use the skills we've taught them to benefit their employer and customers.” 

Workshop participants learn how to program and set up the lathe to perform operations that require a high level of accuracy. Since the equipment uses a diamond tip to cut materials, it is capable of producing extremely fine cuts with nanoscale precision. Participants also learn the fundamentals of metrology, using different tools to verify that a part was manufactured properly. 

Come this fall semester, students in MCC’s optical systems technology program will have their first opportunity to use the lathe and other high-tech advanced manufacturing equipment worth over $1.5 million in the 1,400 square foot lab.  

A second workshop is planned for January 2022. Email rmicali@monroecc.edu for information.