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CAD students restore a 1901 Singer sewing machine

September 12, 2018 - Design, Technology

Every quarter, students nearing graduation are required to complete a Capstone Project. Think of the Capstone Project as a way to bring to life what students are learning by applying their knowledge and solving an innovative, real-world problem.

(Left to right: Ken S., Andrew J., Emma S., Josh R., and Kristian L.)

We sat down with Mark Malecki, the Team Leader of the School of Design, whose Computer Aided Drafting students are restoring a 1901 Singer sewing machine as their Capstone Project. Not only are his students bringing the antique back to working condition, but in the process, they are measuring and creating each part in 3D, creating a modernized user manual, and producing all of the engineering documents for it.

Mark Malecki noted, "The most interesting discovery is when taking apart all the pieces of the sewing machine and the desk, we are amazed at the complexity of these parts produced over 100 years ago.  Trying to reproduce parts made by hand with computers would seem to be a simple task, but it might be one of the most challenging tasks we have attempted.  Just think how remarkably talented these individuals were to create such craftsmanship on a device that will still work over 100 years later.  It really is a humbling experience for the students and the instructors helping to restore and reproduce a 3D working replica."

This is an extensive project to complete in 11 weeks—especially with a parts list of 500 pieces. This is how the students are approaching the project:

  1. Take the sewing machine apart and create a parts list.
  2. Measure the parts.
  3. Create each part in 3D using the software CREO (Pro Engineer).
  4. Create assemblies in the software. These documents are what you would find if you opened up any product that needed home assembly, maintenance or instructions on how to use the product correctly. Assemblies are also used for people to order replacement parts online or paper versions of manuals.
  5. Draft a modernized user's manual.
  6. Create engineering documents on how to reproduce the machine.
  7. Put the machine back together and restore it to working condition. The computer 3D version is for simulation testing and to eventually go to machine shops and or fabrication companies to reproduce parts.

The students are excited to be working on such a unique project, and are currently knee deep in measuring the parts and creating them in 3D. This project will give the students first-hand experience with an interesting project to talk about with potential employers, and they can take what they've learned into their career.



Offering career-focused education since 1946, Pittsburgh Technical College (formerly Pittsburgh Technical Institute (PTI)) offers degree and certificate programs in more than 30 areas. Its 180-acre campus is home to the American Academy of Culinary Arts, the Energy Technology Center, the Nursing Simulation Center, and many hands-on specialty labs. PTC students can take advantage of online course offerings, on-campus residence halls, student activities, intramural programs and community service programs. PTC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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