A team of seniors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering have designed and built a device that automates the disposal of scrap metal, making it safer and more efficient.
The students created the device as their Senior Design project sponsored by Accu-Precision, a Littleton-based manufacturer of custom parts for customers in aerospace and industrial sectors. The Machining Chip Disposal System can lift and dump 600 lbs. of scrap material with the push of a button, cutting down the time it takes to dispose of the material from 30 minutes to five. That decreases the time spent per year on this cumbersome task from more than 1,000 hours to about 170 hours.
“Accu-Precision has 30 machines at their machine shop in Littleton, and they have a bin underneath each of them that gets filled up with scrap,” said the team’s project manager Blake Fardulis. “They have to dump those bins once a day, so the high-paid machinists have to stop what they are doing and haul the bins out to the dumpster. They either have to lift the bins themselves or use a forklift.”
The Machining Chip Disposal System automates this procedure. The device, made up of more than 110 different machine parts, can be remotely activated to save time and physical strain.
The Senior Design team said they are proud that their device will be used in industry. The disposal system is a functional piece of machinery, rather than a prototype or design idea.
“There is a lot of purpose to what we’re doing,” said Systems Engineer Wesley Schumacher. “It’s not just something we will send to the client that will be on the backburner for years. Accu-Precision will use it every day.”
The students said they were drawn to this project because of the purely mechanical work they would be tasked with. The students brainstormed and completed various CAD designs even before their application for Accu-Precision to be their sponsor was accepted.
“This is one of the most mechanical Senior Design projects, and the requirements that have been developed around that have flowed into the whole process,” said Andrew Stiller, the CAD engineer on the team. “It pushed us to question our ability to design devices and analyze them as well. It’s been a good process.”
Most of the team’s time creating the disposal system was spent in the Idea Forge Machine Shop for about 150 – 200 hours to fabricate 110 custom parts. The students said they were in the shop on day one of the spring 2022 semester to get started.
“The machining logistics could have been quite a nightmare, but we got it done on time,” said Manufacturing Engineer Kate Nichols. “We also had a welder through Accu-Precision, so that worked out very nicely. We sent what we needed over to them, and they helped us with that.”
The team said another rewarding aspect was the R&D process. The experience gave them a first-hand look at what a career in design and engineering consulting would be like.
“There are a lot of companies whose sole purpose is doing exactly what we did,” said Aleksey Volkov, the team’s finance manager. “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 could be in a different industry. Short-term ideation is really valuable.”
The students are now testing the Machining Chip Disposal System and finalizing the device’s appearance by routing wires properly, as well as making a smaller control box to for a sleeker look.
The team will be presenting the disposal system at the College of Engineering and Applied Science Engineering Projects Expo 2022 on April 22.