Most of us can remember making projects in high school shop class. In fact, I think I still have a wooden box with a nice hinged lid that I built in woodshop my freshman year. However, imagine you’re not just taking a basic shop class, but are enrolled in one of the courses at School of Automotive Machinists and Technology (SAM Tech).
Obviously, you’re learning far more complex principles that you did in high school shop class, and as such, your projects are far more complex than a simple hinged box or coat rack. With SAM Tech’s wide variety of automotive machining courses, anything that requires machining is covered in one course or another, but one of the more interesting courses they offer is their CNC machining course.
An eight-course series, the CNC Machining program is a comprehensive series that teaches students all of the aspects of programming and operation of 5-axis CNC machining centers and CMM digitizing equipment. With those tools and the knowledge to properly operate them, there is absolutely nothing you can’t create out of a block of base material.
That brings us to the video. Instead of a box or coat rack, this particular class project is a billet aluminum valve cover for an LS engine. While right off the bat, it may seem like a simple project, until you really look deep at what’s being machined. First is a perfectly flat sealing flange with perfectly located bolt holes. Then, there is the potentially complex internal geometry that not only requires precision machining, but also proper technique for large-volume material removal.
Then, flipping the hollowed-out billet over, all the external details, like the A/N fitting mounting bosses,oil fill neck, along with the integral coil pack stands. Add in the fact that a part such as this needs to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional, and you’re adding in challenging compound radii on all of the facets and you start to realize how challenging of a project this is for students. It’s also a lot of fun to watch happen.