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MEEM Senior Design Team Takes National Award


A mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics Senior Design team has earned best-in-the-nation honors for bringing automation to a tedious, labor-intensive machining process.

The honor had its genesis in fall 2006, when Endres Machining Innovations (EMI) asked the department's Senior Design program to tackle a knotty problem that arises in machining metals with a lathe. The cutter becomes dull very quickly and must be rotated manually, a process that requires constant monitoring. Just adjusting the edge can take an operator up to five minutes.

Automating that process would save both time and labor, explains the team's advisor, Assistant Professor Jaime Camelio (MEEM). The team members took on the challenge last year and by spring had successfully developed their automatically indexing insert toolholder.

Associate Professor William Endres (MEEM), the owner of EMI, said the team performed admirably. "We scoped the Capstone (Senior) Design project to address the auto-indexing capability in hopes of getting a range of concepts from a fresh perspective," he said. "The team did exactly that, and did a great job in every other element of the project."

They entered the project in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Student Manufacturing Design Competition, which selected it as one of five finalists. The finalists traveled to the International Manufacturing and Science and Engineering Conference, held recently in Atlanta, for the final stage of the competition. And on Oct. 16, after all the projects were evaluated, the Michigan Tech team was awarded the top prize.

"It was cool," said Jeremy Rickli, a team member last year and now a PhD student in mechanical engineering. "We had the most complete project in terms of analysis, design and fabrication."

The toolholder, about the size of a large box of toothpaste and housed in a steel case, has a small, cylindrical cutter clamped in place on one corner and two motors inside. When the cutter's edge becomes dull, one motor lifts the clamp. Then the second motor rotates the blade to expose a fresh cutting edge. Finally, the first motor pulls the clamp down to immobilize the blade.

The indexing, or degrees of rotation, and its frequency are controlled automatically via a control system developed by the team.

"They were very creative," said Camelio. "They kept pushing for a better option, and they didn't stop pushing until the end."

In particular, he praised the students for their efforts outside their discipline. "Cutting metal is easy for them, but working on software and electronics is completely different," Camelio said.

It was a lot of work, Rickli admitted. "But we learned a lot. We had never completed a project like that—there was a lot of trial and error."

In addition to Rickli, the team members were Jonathan Granstrom, John Armstead, Andy Fenderbosch, and Casey Coolich.


Automatically Indexing Tool Holder

The team also won 2st Place Award Senior Design Projects in the Michigan 2006 Undergraduate Research Expo April, 2006

Department: Mechanical Engineering - Engineering Mechanics
Advisor: Jaime Camelio

Team Members: John Armstead, Casey Coolich, Andrew Fenderbosch, Jonathan Granstrom, Jeremy Rickli

Project Title: Automatically Indexing Tool Holder
Sponsor: Endres Machining Innovations

Project Summary: The Automatically Indexing Insert Toolholder design project focuses on the design, prototyping, and testing of a toolholder for turning operations. The key feature that separates this toolholder from others on the market is its ability to automatically rotate an indexable insert from a dull to fresh edge via an electrically actuated mechanism. Doing so saves significant machining downtime associated with the current method of manually indexing an insert. The projected savings in time allow the end user to reduce the costs related to machining parts, especially if the components being turned are made from hard materials that wear the insert rapidly.


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December 4, 2007