Precision toolmaker in Victoria, BC completes SOLIDWORKS training and certification at astronomical pace

In just a few months, Greg Nuspel completed three of Javelin’s live online SOLIDWORKS training courses and earned two professional designations.

Greg is an instrument and toolmaker in the Design and Fabrication Services Branch of the National Research Council of Canada. He works out of NRC’s Victoria location, the site of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre.

Greg is part of a team of advanced machinists who build components for Canadian and international scientists and astronomers. Their work involves precision machining to tolerances of three to five microns, using the kind of machine that can engrave a human hair. Finished instruments are shipped around the world to the sites of massive optical and radio telescopes, such as the twin Gemini telescopes in Chile and Hawaii or the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, BC.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, an opportunity opened up for Greg to move professional development higher up on his priority list. With the support of his employer, Greg took the time to upgrade his skills in SOLIDWORKS 3D design tools.

Long-time user learns new tricks

Greg is far from a novice user of SOLIDWORKS – he has been using the software for 20 years. He simply knew that proper training would increase his productivity and make his life easier.

“I was self-taught,” Greg said. “I had my own ways of making drawings and parts but occasionally became frustrated with some tasks. I could put a model together using my own techniques but wasn’t necessarily comfortable handing that file off to someone else.”

During training with Javelin, Greg learned valuable tips and tricks.

“I now use tools I didn’t know existed. I used to work through several menus to get to certain functions and now I know the keyboard shortcuts that eliminate those steps.”

Greg learned how to automate repetitive tasks related to components he uses regularly. And instead of using a calculator, he now programs formulas to maintain design intent when a part is modified. He calls the tips he learned for mating assemblies and working with advanced mates “pieces of gold.”

Greg from NRC attended SOLIDWORKS training and certification with Javelin

Greg with a Nikon microscope for measuring parts

Through training to certification

Greg participated in three of Javelin’s live online training options for SOLIDWORKS users: Essentials, Drawings, and Assembly Modeling. He then added to his list of accomplishments by successfully completing the examinations for two designations: Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP) and Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Advanced Drawing Tools (CSWPA-DT).

“After using SOLIDWORKS for such a long time, it was time to prove my skills,” Greg explained. “Even with years of experience, I never would have passed the certification exams without going through the training courses.”

Greg also prepared for the exams by checking out supplemental training on the SOLIDWORKS website. He picked up a few new skills while refreshing his knowledge before being tested.

Online training well designed and engaging

Javelin has been delivering live online training (called JOLT) for years and Greg said that experience stood out.

“The courses are well organized, and are structured to adult learning, which is about making sure we know why the content is important. The Javelin manuals are excellent and easy to work through.”

It takes a little more effort to provide personalization and a sense of community in the online environment. Greg reported that he was a little hesitant at first asking his questions, but he and the rest of the trainees quickly became more relaxed. Eventually they were able to replicate some of the peer-to-peer exchanges that happen in a classroom.

“If we ever had a question that stumped the instructor, he said he’d get us the answer right away. By the time we had done an exercise, he was back with the answer. I’m sure that speaks to the solid support team Javelin has.”

Proof of proficiency

Because of the skills and confidence Greg has gained, he has become much more efficient in completing fixture designs. Also, the engineering team is able to offload the task of detailing drawings, freeing up their valuable time.

“The engineers know I’m certified and can manage their drawings. When we work together more efficiently, everyone saves time. Adding more of my expertise in machining and manufacturing to the design process is an added benefit. My organization’s investment in training is easily recouped in overall increased productivity.”

For now, Greg is satisfied with his two new professional designations. He may continue his learning with some advanced Javelin training in the future.

“I hope to encourage others to do training and certification and find better ways of working. People might have some time to focus on training now; once they get back to the regular grind, they might not take the time to improve their skills.”

 

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“The engineers know I’m certified and can manage their drawings. When we work together more efficiently, everyone saves time. Adding more of my expertise in machining and manufacturing to the design process is an added benefit. My organization’s investment in training is easily recouped in overall increased productivity.”

— Greg Nuspel, instrument and toolmaker, National Research Council of Canada

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