A team of senior Mechanical Engineering Department staff designed and built a device that automates scrap metal disposal, making it safer and more efficient.
The students created the device as part of their senior design project sponsored by Accu-Precision, a Littleton-based custom parts manufacturer for aerospace and industrial customers. The machining chip disposal system can lift and dump 600 lbs. of scrap at the push of a button, reducing the time it takes to dispose of material from 30 minutes to five. This reduces the time spent per year on this heavy task from over 1,000 hours to approximately 170 hours.
“Accu-Precision has 30 machines in their machine shop in Littleton, and they have a bin under each of them that fills with scrap metal,” said the team’s project manager, Blake Fardulis. “They have to empty these bins once a day, so well-paid machinists have to stop what they’re doing and haul the bins to the dumpster. They must either lift the bins themselves or use a forklift.
The machining chip removal system automates this procedure. The device, made up of more than 110 different machine parts, can be activated remotely to save time and reduce physical effort.
The Senior Design team said they were proud that their device was being used in industry. The disposal system is a working piece of machinery, rather than a prototype or design idea.
“There’s a lot of purpose in what we do,” said systems engineer Wesley Schumacher. “It’s not just something we’ll send to the customer that will sit on the back burner for years. Accu-Precision will use it every day.
The students said they were attracted to this project because of the purely mechanical work that would be entrusted to them. The students brainstormed and completed various CAD designs even before their application to have Accu-Precision as their sponsor was accepted.
“This is one of the most mechanical senior design projects, and the requirements that were developed around it rippled through the entire process,” said CAD engineer Andrew Stiller. of the team. “It made us question our ability to design devices and analyze them as well. It was a good process.
Most of the team’s time creating the disposal system was spent in the Idea Forge machine shop for approximately 150-200 hours to manufacture 110 custom parts. The students said they were in the store on the first day of the spring 2022 semester to begin.
“Machining logistics could have been a real nightmare, but we made it in time,” said manufacturing engineer Kate Nichols. “We also had a welder through Accu-Precision so it worked really well. We sent them what we needed and they helped us.
The team said another rewarding aspect was the R&D process. The experience gave them first-hand insight into what a career in design and engineering consulting would look like.
“There are a lot of companies whose sole purpose is to do exactly what we did,” said Aleksey Volkov, the team’s chief financial officer. “The client comes to them with an idea and it’s the consultant’s job to solve that problem. One day it could be in aerospace; another day it might be in a different industry. Short-term ideation is really valuable.
Students are currently testing the machining chip disposal system and finalizing the appearance of the device by properly routing the wires, as well as creating a smaller control box for a sleeker look.
The team will showcase the disposal system at the College of Engineering and Applied Science Engineering Projects Expo 2022 on April 22.
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