News, views and information for the users of TechSoft products
OK, YOU WIN!
Over the years many valued TechSoft clients have requested a "TechSoft Users Club" complete with a newsletter. We agree that you deserve this and so here it is!
In this Tten, or 10 for short, we will comment on some topical issues and run through some of the technology education products and services we offer. Some of these you will be aware of, some may be new to you.
As you know, we are intensely needs driven. Many of our products have been originated and developed from observations made at the chalk-face. Others are traditional, and some are inventions. But all are designed and built specifically for education - not cut-down industrial jobs. Also we fully support teachers, with materials, training and service. Its a must!
We invite comments and contributions to 10. And we are not wanting to be competitive to other communicators. We are members of TENZ (and PITO) and fully supportive, as we demonstrated at Christchurch and Auckland recently. More about that later.
We want 10 to be as much yours as ours. We believe more is achieved by real cooperation than by mindless competition. So we want to know if you are willing to share what you are doing with TechSoft products. Let us know and we will publish, with full credit to you.
As you may know the Treasurer, believes that a weak New Zealand dollar is good for business. We are not sure where he gets these ideas from, but it's not true in our experience. The reason for this is that as manufacturers we cannot sell just on price. Quality comes first, service second and price third. The fact that, in more cases than not, TechSoft seems to win on all three is irrelevant. The point is that all manufacturers add value to materials, and in most cases these materials are imported or have significant imported content. A weak Kiwi dollar translates into higher prices locally. This puts pressure on our costs and we need to constantly be looking at the price we sell to you. Believe us, there is no "fat" in our prices. When the Kiwi dollar goes down we hurt. At the moment we have to look at our prices, for instance the Kiwi has lost 22% of its value in the last two months. We are constantly carping to our overseas partners to get the best deals on the components we have to import, but whilst they are sympathetic, they take the view that they can sell all they make and we are a small market to them. We know how they feel! So if you are contemplating buying from us, now is the time to order!
If you wait and pay more, don't blame us. But give our Treasurer a wake-up call. We fear that purchasers will be lured into buying cheaper, which in this scenario, will mean nastier. The fact is that whilst some may think that increasing the price of necessary imports makes for stronger local production he has failed to grasp that the reverse will happen. Manufacturers will simply become importers, or go off shore. Its happening now. A simple case of - fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
For the record, we are a net value-added business. Just how long we can remain to add value in New Zealand, or just simply import fully overseas content, largely depends on economics. The reality is that without local manufacture the dole queue just gets longer. We can't all be brain surgeons! And as an aside, we had a case recently where despite all the Mail-outs we send, an Auckland school decided to import its plastics machines because they did not know of a New Zealand manufacturer. Fortunately, we got there just in time, the foreign job was cancelled and another TechSoft user joins the crowd, phew! Some school's "front-offices" seem to regard faxes as shredder fodder, ours are not, so perhaps a quiet word is called for.
In cooperation with Teacher Support in Auckland, Wellington-Hutt Valley and Hawkes Bay we have held seminars dealing with plastics in schools. These have followed the time-honoured formula of learning-by-doing.
We also take time to explain what is actually happening to the material as it undergoes processing. We make no excuses for de-bunking the myths and Alice in Wonderland stories about plastics and plastics processing that seem to abound, and we believe are still being promulgated by certain parties who should, but obviously do not know better. We are not into the guru mind set, we just tell you the way it is and can be proved by good science.
In this we are guided by a recent survey concerned with what 6 & 7th Formers found most irritating with the learning process, the finding was that they hate finding out that what they were told last year is invalid. The truth, that is the present good science and engineering, has to remain but its delivery has to be appropriate to the level of understanding of the individual. And there's the rub, the individual. We are not telling how to teach, but simply passing on that which we believe helpful to you.
And there's more coming up, Hutt Valley on the 3 December and Wellington, in the New Year.
We are more than happy to run seminars in your area, just give us a call and run it by us.
We hear lots about this, and will appreciate your views. As you may know, we have partitioned our total business so that we do not confuse technology education with industrial training. For what it's worth, our position is that they are separate parts of total education. They are both directed at advancement, but have different objectives and methodology.
Our vision is that technology education aims to give a broad appreciation of the effect of processes on materials and the attendant social and economic results. Hence we define technology as: "using skill and knowledge to make things better". Placing the emphasis on different words in this phrase gives a useful range of contexts.
The industry training model is different. It aims to maximise the use of resources to make profit.
Are the two incompatible? No, they are not. But we believe it is important to understand the difference between the two and act accordingly. For instance, we hear some schools have opted to deliver Unit Standard based industry training. Nothing inherently wrong with that, except that time spent doing it is not available to technology education, or some other part of the curriculum. Time is a finite resource, and as such has to be used wisely. Also, can the industry that benefits, reward these outcomes with suitable quality and quantity of jobs over a long period of time? We wonder sometimes if this is not just cost transfer, or blatant opportunism.
The concept of "seamless education" is in itself an admirable aim, but it can only be achieved by real cooperation amongst all participants. There is a lot of work to do on this aspect. Patch protection has to end, and pitting the Olde World qualifications against the New World qualifications is, quite frankly, pathetic.
Marrying technology education with industry training would appear to be a marriage requiring careful consummation. Let's hope that it does not end in separation or divorce.
In the meantime we will continue to deliver purpose-built technology education products and education-safe supplies to schools, and separately deal with our ever growing list of quality driven industrial clients, both in New Zealand and Australia. That's our position, for what it's worth.
Those of you that attended this inaugural conference will join us in congratulating the organisers and the sponsors. Well done Tony and his team and thanks Telecom. TechSoft delivered the module - Plastics for Schools. We learnt a lot, and the participants told us they did too. We had fun, and made a lot of plastics products. One thing we learnt is that Frisbie® throwing is a sport. Its called Ultimate. Did you know that, and that New Zealand is well up with the play at the World Champs? We learnt this because one the of the things the Plastics for Schools participants got to make was an Ultimate, or (frisbie). And our dog ate the liqueur chocolates that we were given in appreciation, one hung-over dog!
The Frisbie, sorry Ultimate, (mustn't say Frisbie, its a registered trade name), was thermoformed on the TechSoft thermoforming machine (sometimes referred to, wrongly, as a "vacuum former"), using TechSoft toughened polystyrene (spray paintable) material. The forming tool was made from Customwood®, bandsawed, then cleaned up on the lathe. A counterbore was machined in the centre to take disks holesawed from hardboard . These discs were engraved to customise the Ultimates, in this case, TENZ 97. We can engrave for you at a modest cost, or you can you do it yourself with a Dremmel®, or glue on a wire image, etc. If you want more details or to use the CNC engraving service, fax us. The cost of the material for the Ultimates - about 50cents a pop.
We have joined Technology Network because we see ourselves as part of the process of technology education. It's the old story "the butcher stops cashing cheques if the bank stops selling meat". We have also enrolled the Design Association of New Zealand Inc, DANZ, whose affairs we manage. They are the modernised version of the NZID and been around since 1946. As we have said, we believe that cooperation achieves more than mindless competition. And that by working together, more or less, we can all succeed. Don't you just hate the "winners and losers" brigade.
Invited to the Taranaki Branch of the NZGTTA at New Plymouth Boys High School we had a great time. Really nice to see people in the business that we have known for - how long! And meeting NZGTTA National President, Mike Jackson, in Christchurch we are more than available to help where we can. So if we can help, give us a call.
UNIQUE HOTPLATE SYSTEM - PURPOSE-BUILT FOR SCHOOLS - SAFE- COMPLETE
We have received many accolades, (and orders) about our new product, TechSoft Hotplate System . This is very keenly priced and supplied as a complete ready to mould kit. It enables schools to mould thermoplastics. (For those that want to use the correct terms we say moulding is change of shape with change of state. It differs from forming, which we say is change of shape without change of state. Thus: injection moulding, and thermoforming.
This new, safe and energy efficient product enables all ages to do real plastics moulding, and make really nice things, whilst learning a lot about materials and processes.
The kit comes complete with the machine, ready to plug in and go, education-safe material, (in 5 colours), heat insulated mould, tweezers, aluminium strips, mould release agent and comprehensive teacher-friendly instructions etc. A complete box of tricks.
In addition to moulding thermoplastics, the TechSoft hotplate is perfect for chocolate moulding operations, use with TechSoft Epoxy Resin System, making pikelets and frying eggs!
Small and isolated schools especially will find this machine is ideal, in price, ease of use, safety and scope of operations. (Big city schools can use it too). It enables quality outcomes not otherwise practical. Kids get to own a piece a technology that will impress the most ardent cynic. Ask for more info. If you have one tell us what things your kids have made on it. We've already had fantastic feedback. There's some clever people out there. But watch out for art teachers, they are incredible.
We have identified a need for a range of Hollow Punches . These are now available, 10 mm diameter, 10mm square and 10mm equilateral triangle. They are designed to punch apertures in TechSoft plastics sheet, card and thin gauge (< 28 gauge) aluminium. Ask for details.
We have received renewed interest in this machine. We ceased promoting it sometime ago when we got word of a "directive" from the Ministry of Education banning the use of these machines in schools, apparently on the grounds of "toxic fumes" from, we understand, expanded polystyrene. But we have been unable to locate a copy of the directive. Inquiries to the Ministry have not located it and they are unaware of it. So we are accepting orders for this machine. For your advice, there are plastics materials that emit toxic fumes. These are mainly polyurethane materials, PU, both polyether and polyester and polyvinylchloride, PVC, types. The most common use of the PU materials is for comfort padding, in upholstery, cushions etc, and for PVC for structural foam in reinforced plastics structures. If you have a need to thermally cut these, you must use an extractor system. Relying on natural draught is unreliable, and therefore unsafe. Other common materials in the foam, or cellular, form are polyethylene, PE and (expanded)polystyrene, EPS. These emit a pungent odour, but this is not regarded as toxic, given that the frequency and concentration of exposure is not excessive. Dilution by efficient natural draught is effective in minimising any practical hazard. But you must be alert to any allergic reactions - which, of course, goes without saying.
The TechSoft Hot-Wire machine can be used to cut materials other than plastics foams. Certain textiles and plastics foils can also be cut in this way. We will be pleased to advise upon your specific requests. And if you want more information - just ask TechSoft.
This machine seems to have more aliases than anything else, stripheater, linebender, strip thermoformer are some we have heard. We thought every school had one, but we still make them and out the door they go, never ending. We now supply this machine ready to receive a back-stop attachment and is available as an optional extra. It greatly facilitates heat bending operation and improves accuracy of the bend placement and makes heating from both sides more effective. We also fit two M5 threaded bushes in the base plate to deter the light fingered.
Another new product is the folding jig . This is used to make folding operations easier for paper and when using the plastics sheet heat bender. It is designed to use our standard plastics sheet size. It has been designed with primary schools in mind where workshop facilities are not usually available.
Buy gears or make gears? If you buy, are you really teaching mechanisms, or simply pick and assemble? But how do you make gears that actually work. This is a problem we have wrestled with over many years. We have imported, well, you name it and we'll have a box of it somewhere around here. We have not seen a "kit" yet that actually does teach mechanisms. We won't mention any names but you know what we mean. The mind boggles at the complexity of some of the stuff, and the price!
Of course, mechanisms are more than gears. But levers, genevas, pulleys, wheels etc are relatively simple to make. But gears, phew!
We are tooling now for the answer. If you are into gears, but are frustrated by the size, range, cost, etc of what you have seen thus far. . . give us a call. If you have a TechSoft injection moulding machine give us a call a.s.a.p. We have some good news about gears.
Is it for schools? There is no simple answer. Injection moulding is a very important industrial process. So many of the articles we use in every day life are injection moulded. The injection moulding machine is arguably one of the most important machine tools ever invented. Injection moulded products range in size from tiny gears to sailing dinghies. The accuracy, speed and immediacy of production of complex articles is unrivalled by any other process. Injection moulding uses both thermoplastics and thermosetting materials. This means injection moulding is relevant to a school's technology programme. But to answer the question. Affordability is, of course, a factor. And on first glance it is limited by the ability to make the tools, and the size of the article produced etc. We are aware of these limitations, and we have neutralised them.
Firstly, the TechSoft Injection Moulding System is purpose-built for school's use. It is not designed for industrial use, and not a cut-down industrial machine flicked off by-a-hit-and-run-merchant or opportunist. Whilst the principles of injection moulding remain the same, the application of these principles is quite different. Its the difference between technology education and industrial training. What is done in an industrial injection moulding context has little, if any, relevance to what is needed with injection moulding for schools. For instance, two or even three colour mouldings are easy with our machine, but avoided like the plague in industry. And conversely, moulding cycle times of 5 secs or less are common in industry but impossible with our machine. Did you say- different horses for different courses. You were listening (apologies to CLEAR).
Let's go back to the beginning, When, in 1878, the American Hyatt developed the injection moulding machine he used basic engineering principles to overcome certain production problems related to materials that had been newly developed. Since that time these basic principles have remained unchanged, but the modern industrial injection moulding process has been compared to the complexity of a jumbo-jet aircraft.
By contrast, the TechSoft injection moulding machine remains remarkably similar to Hyatt's original. So are we hopelessly behind the times.? We don't think so. We provide technology education systems, equipment and materials, that lead to the obtain of a foundation of sound technological understanding through participation - the classic hands-on approach.
Not all participants at school will seek careers in one of the materials processing industries, some will go into commerce and others into the sociological pursuits. But they will all benefit from an appreciation of how the things they use are made. And they can make very good things, using very simple tooling available for the TechSoft injection moulding system.
So is injection moulding for schools? The answer is a qualified - yes. For secondary schools and intermediate level it is a very effective way to deliver a wide range of aspects of the materials and process curricula. For primary level, from age 8 years up, it is a useful technological encounter, and for which we recommend the use of our cluster facility.
If you do not yet have a TechSoft injection moulding machine, you can still participate in injection moulding. Why not design (give shape, form and function to an idea) a product for injection moulding, even make the mould, and send it to us and we will make a quantity of mouldings for you. Or we can make a mould insert to your kid's design, then do the mouldings. After all in the "real-world" that is how it is most often done! If this idea grabs you, give us a ring.
If you have one of our machines, ask about the new tooling aids available, like the 40mm mould, the insert blanks, the blind sprue plate, and the epoxy resin system for making moulds. Also ask about the purging fluid and the new range of moulding materials. Its all happening here.
And another TechSoft 1st! - carvable injection moulding inserts. You, or rather your students, carve the top surface, either with carving tools or the ubiquitous "Dremmel", place the insert into the 28mm dia. mould bolster and mould. Ask for details.
We are aware of the growing list of "vac formers" being offered to schools by all sorts of people. In the cases we know of there is no actual after-sales service and the machines are pseudo industrial machines being passed of as being suitable for "schools use". And some we've heard of are priced at 3 times our schools model price, without having any additional useful or tangible benefits.
Our thermoforming machine is used by more schools in New Zealand by a factor of at least 10, (probably 20). Its built in New Zealand, and we've been around for 22 years, still here and growing.
If our schools model is genuinely not suitable for you, ask about our small business model. TechSoft Senior Thermoformer is bigger, and has more features. It also costs more, both in purchase price and materials.
Why do we call our machine a thermoforming machine and not a "vacuum former" The answer is simple. It's the correct name. In a technology education environment it is important to know the principles upon which process rely. In this case, it is the effect of heat energy upon a thermoplastics material, the effect of mechanical stretching and the difference of pressures that cause a forming to occur. We are aware of an army of "suckers" out there, but really guys we can do better than that. There is no sucking, its the difference in the pressure acting on one side of the sheet to that on the other side.
You may not be aware of our thermoforming simulator. If you want to demonstrate how the process works without using a sheet of plastics material, use the TechSoft thermoforming simulator. This enables you to talk your students through the process. It also simplifies the solution of otherwise difficult three dimensional graphical problems.
New materials: we offer two transparent thermoplastic materials APET and PVAC in lieu of acrylic, PMMA. The preferred choice, on performance and economy is PVAC, stocked in three thicknesses, 0.25mm for "blister-pack" applications, 0.5mm and 0.7mm for all other applications. We recommend the use of the TechSoft Reflector when using PVAC.
TechSoft TPS is the preferred material for all general purpose work. It is translucent, easy to form, colour and assemble. For greater stiffness, we offer white opaque ABS .
Economy tip: Transparent materials generally are more expensive than translucent or opaque. So consider using a window technique. For instance if you are making an enclosure for a say, an electronics device, use opaque material, say TPS. Spray paint this to get the colour desired, then cut out one or more windows and use TechSoft assembly tape to fix the window in place. Use PVAC for the window. This gives a very professional product at a much lower cost. It also introduces many additional learning opportunities.
Many of you that have had one (or more) of our thermoforming machines for some years, may like to know that we offer a reconditioning service. There have been some improvements over the years and we offer to bring your machine up to date for a very modest cost. Ask for details.
If you are in the market for a CAD software package that is designed for education, then look no further. Design Tools is a full feature 2D CAD for Windows®. (Sorry, not available for Apple Mac). Design Tools follows the ease of use many of you will remember from TechSoft Designer but of course is bigger, and faster. Leaving aside the hyperbole generated about 3D, in most cases the reality is that 2D is more relevant and cost effective to a schools environment. Design Tools combines the best from graphics software and drawing software. This means that you can teach technical drawing, technical graphics and art graphics. As a bonus you have a CAM facility and 3D effects. And you can shut out any of the drawing tools, to permit stage by stage instruction. It has full file compatibility with other professionally written software. If you are in the market, ask for an evaluation kit.
You also get full service and support, but you knew that.
TechSoft is the New Zealand distributor for Boxford education products. Boxford make a wide range of CNC products for education. For the schools market, the DUET CNC lathe & mill is outstanding. We congratulate Wellington College on their DUET. Andrew Kerrison took awhile (3 years) to make his decision and we think he is correct. He wanted turning and milling capability. Just now he and his team are doing the complimentary course Introduction to CNC for Schools, and will introduce CNC machining to their students first term 1998.
We also are the Australasian distributors for Intelys CNC education products . These include mills, lathes, flexible manufacturing lines and injection moulding machines. They make the CamCut CNC 3 axis mill/drill / router for us. The CamCut is ideal for schools wanting to make CNC products within a machining envelope of 300mm x 200mm x 90mm. The CamCut is safe and powerful and comes complete with easy to use 3D software. To test just how good the CamCut really is, we sold one to arguably New Zealand's best engineering pattern-maker, Malcolm Kingsford. The work that he has done on this machine is astounding.
If you are contemplating CNC machining, ask us for advice. Its a big decision and one to be taken carefully. All of our advice is full and very frank, (as some of you have already found out - sorry). The simple fact is we don't have, nor do we want, any bad sites out there. If it's not the correct purchase for the character of your school, and the appropriate outcomes you won't be getting it from us! PS. Where are the suppliers to schools of certain brands of CNC equipment now? Oh dear, but we did warn you. The moral is - buy from TechSoft!
As we say, CNC for schools is a decision to be taken advisedly, we can help. But, if you want to teach CNC, but can't afford the correct hardware, then consider our extremely low cost simulator. (Not software, but we have that too). The TechSoft CNC simulator helps to visually explain how CNC works. Ask for details.
A bit like mechanisms kits, just about anybody and everybody is offering electronic kits to schools. So how to you make the correct choice for your school, and yourself. And, is it science or technology? We offer some advice.
First, think about what your teaching objectives are, for instance, do you want to teach about electronics, (mostly science) or about electronics applications, (definitely technology). Next, how much time can you afford to spend on lesson preparation. purchasing the components, waiting for all the bits and pieces to arrive, seeing if it works etc. Next, decide if you are going to try and teach skills such as soldering at the same time as teaching electronics.
Decide if you are an "electronics person". And finally are the kids going to take home the product.
If you decide to teach electronics applications, and you are not an electronics engineering expert, and you want to teach but not hassle with suppliers, do us both a favour, join the smart crowd and buy one (or more) TechSoft Introduction to Electronics Technology, IET kit(s). It comes complete, in a steel box, with 40 graded projects all set out for you to deliver. But that's just for starters - to get you going. No soldering involved, works every time and suitable for 3rd to 7 th Form. Upgrades are available for computer electronics, communication electronics, and control electronics. (Used by just about every second UK school - but built in New Zealand). Oh yes, you get a Teachers Manual with all the answers. Ask for more details.
One of the world's most prestigious largest pneumatics component manufacturer and TechSoft have cooperated to bring you the very best in teaching pneumatics. This is found in the TechSoft pneumatics kit , which consist of a set of real pneumatics components, and a set of the basic pneumatics circuits. This enables you to lead your students to design and build fluid power system that really work. All you need add is the compressed air, a bicycle pump will do! All the components can be used over and over again, because push-fit connectors are used and piping is included. Additional components are available. Ask for details if you want to teach real-world pneumatics.
One question we get often is how to join the bits and pieces together. There is no universal answer. You are already fully aware of the common methods, mechanical fasteners, welding, glues, and so on. In many cases we recommend TechSoft assembly tape for both short-term and permanent joints. This is a professional quality membrane 12mm wide saturated with a high-tack adhesive. It is ideal for moderate strength bonds between a wide range of substrates, the two main constraints being that relatively smooth surfaces are necessary and that bond strength diminishes rapidly above 50 deg Celsius. But on the positive side, it is easy to handle, solvent-free and economical. Ask for details.
Our popular 5-minute teachers talks now cover ten plastics materials supplied by us, these are epoxy, EP, polyethylene, PE, toughened polystyrene, TPS, acrylonitrilebutadiene styrene, ABS, thermoplastic polyesters APET & PETG, polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE, natural rubber latex, IR, polychloroethene (-1 acetoxy ethylene), PVAC, and expanded polystyrene, EPS.
For those of your that have time to stare at a screen all day we have an Email address. Awesome! It is:
For those of you that trust the olde way, the phone is (04) 565 1400, the fax is (04) 565 1401, the mail box is 31 202 Lower Hutt, and if you are coming to see us the "physical" address is 1 Bermer (not Burma!) Road, Belmont Hills, Hutt City. Just down the road from Wellington Airport.
Thought for the day - you must learn from other people's mistakes - you haven't got time to make them all yourself!
Finally, do have a good break, whilst we try and catch up on the back-orders, not that we are complaining!
Simon, Ralph & Sid
TechSoft, Box 31202, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Phone +64 4 565 1400, Fax +64 4 565 1401, email@example.com
Member of Technology Education NZ Support Network
Serving Technology Education Safely and Continuously Since 1976.