As Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University continues to grow, the demands on AXFAB, especially from senior design projects, have likewise increased. Seeing a chance to raise the quality as well as the quantity of AXFAB’s work, the university has, in addition to acquiring new machines, hired two experienced more machinists to work in AXFAB.
Joining long-time Embry-Riddle machinist Patrick David are new employees Jeff Hyatt and Ernie Stokesberry, who began their work this year. “I started July 8,” said Stokesberry. “That was my first day… I’ve been here almost three or four months now.” Stokesberry graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2004, and worked for HNTB Corporation and Georgia Precision Rifles before moving to Arizona. In addition to his work at Embry-Riddle, Stokesberry also owns and operates Accurate Solutions, LLC in Chino Valley.
“I would be a resource for all the students in the machine shop and also in the labs,” Stokesberry said. “And I would sort of be here and there and everywhere…. Jeff’s more on the aerospace engineering side, and I’m on the mechanical engineering side, though obviously there’s a lot of overlap.”
“My prior work experience as far as the machine side and the design side is mostly with the firearms industry and the automotive industry,” said Stokesberry. Hyatt also described his background, saying: “I spent my whole career basically working in the engineering industry. I also have a machine shop in my home. I did a lot of vintage motorcycle work.”
One of the recent additions to the AXFAB is a 3-axis, CNC-mill with a 4000-rpm spindle and a 12-place toolholder. Hyatt and Stokesberry are eager to make use of the mill’s capacity to work with CATIA software to create parts with industry-level complexity and precision.
“With the students here doing all of this CATIA modelling, the idea is to get their CATIA models translated to this machine and fabricate them that way,” said Hyatt. “That’s the way it will be in industry, and that’s how it has been for twenty years,” Stokesberry added. “It’s been a long time since anybody would actually sit at a lathe with a print.”
The new machine, Stokesberry explained, is much faster than a manual mill. Many parts once required hours or days to create, “whereas here,” he said, “these operations will be done in half an hour or less… that goes for the Astro side, and the AE side, and the ME side as well…. That’s one of the reasons I was hired here, because I have a strong background in CNC machining.”
Other new pieces of equipment include a laser etching machine used to cut wood. “It will help with the design-build-fly,” Hyatt said.
Stokesberry then pointed to another machine, one expected to be particularly useful in modelling and light aircraft work. “This is a CNC foam-cutter,” he said, “this is what you could use to cut airfoil shapes.”
“It’s all CNC operated,” added Hyatt, “so it can do all kinds of angles and shapes.” The two machinists explained how a hot-wire cuts the shape out of the foam, which would then be covered in a composite material for strength.
“On the not automated side, we are going to get a new milling machine in there, and we’re going to be equipping the manual mill and the lathe with digital readouts … All of these things around here will upping the bar considerably.”
Jeff Hyatt summed matters up, saying: “Our goal is to have all of the students with the mindset of ‘I’m going to make a design without having to worry about the manufacturing,’ because I think over the last year all the creativity has been squashed.”

Leave a Reply