One goal of the MSU Mechanical Engineering Program is to educate engineers who are prepared to lead, create, and innovate as their professional or graduate careers evolve. The Mechanical Engineering Design Program is the key element of the curriculum that supports this goal. There are five required design courses in the program which provide our students with eight hands-on, team-based, ‘design, test and build’ projects, and numerous opportunities to practice and refine their written, oral, poster, and video presentation skills. The Design Program in Mechanical Engineering has attracted national recognition on many occasions and helps to distinguish the ME program as one of the best in the country.
For information on becoming a project sponsor, please contact Mike Colucci.
The following are the project sponsors and projects for Spring 2015:
Ingersoll Rand: Air Conditioner Packaging Cost Reduction
Trane, a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of air conditioning systems. Each year it ships from the Trane, Lynn Haven facility approximately 24,000 D-sized cabinets (89” x 65” x 41”), each of which must be packaged securely—usually in wooden crate assemblies. In 2009, a sharp increase in the cost of lumber resulted in a corresponding spike in packaging costs. Currently, the cost of packaging for each D-sized cabinet air conditioner is $73. Trane is interested in reducing this packaging cost to avoid increasing the overall product cost and to remain competitive in this market.
The Michigan State team has been asked to design a packaging system which reduces packaging costs to $55 per unit, through changes in the materials used and modifications to the packaging structure. Design options will be created and analyzed using finite element methods to determine the most promising option. The final design must also comply with National Motor Freight Traffic Association guidelines.
Ingersoll Rand: Improved Design of Roof Panel Assemblies
Trane, a division of Ingersoll Rand, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of air conditioning systems, services, and solutions, providing cool air, warm air, or clean air for people in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. Air conditioning units are often bulky and comprise several structural components, one of which is the roof panel. During assembly of these units, the roof panel must be installed with great care if it is to be done properly and safely. Currently these panels are moved using a vacuum suction manipulator, which can be unreliable. Manipulators are used to pick up the roof panel from a table, move it into place, and lower it on top of the unit, after which an operator secures it with screws. However, if the suction manipulator functions incorrectly, the roof panel can fall to the ground. Trane would like to eliminate the possibility of suction-manipulator failure, as safety is the top priority at Ingersoll Rand.
The objective for the MSU team is to improve the current manipulator design, possibly using new technologies, to ensure eliminating the possibility of suction-manipulator failure. An optimal solution will be selected which fulfills Trane’s constraints and can be implemented in the assembly process to provide the same functionality in a reliabile and safe manner.
Ingersoll Rand: Cost-Effective Impeller-Mount Design
Trane Incorporated, a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand, is a world leader in air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems. Trane provides high quality climate control systems for residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. One product for industrial and commercial use is a ‘Performance Climate Changer,’ which is essentially a very large air conditioning unit. Large centrifugal fans are utilized to draw air into the performance climate changer prior to cooling. Cooled air is then distributed through the building via a system of ducts. Trane is interested in making this design more flexible by hanging the centrifugal fans vertically, thereby providing a better installation option for buildings with limited floor space.
The goal of this assignment is to provide this installation option by designing an airtight mounting system that can support a 130 lb motorized impeller, withstand its vibrations, and allow rapid installation. The mount must meet Trane’s quality standards and be cost-effective, as it is expected to be manufactured in large volumes. The team will build a working prototype, test its performance, and demonstrate its capability for vertical mounting of impellers.
U.S. Steel: Improved Thermal Efficiency in Bottle Cars
U.S. Steel is one of the largest steel producers in the United States. To produce steel in one particular plant, iron ore is melted in a blast furnace and then transported in a “hot metal bottle” train car to a secondary facility where it is then mixed with other elements, reheated, and transformed into steel. At the U.S. Steel plant in Ecorse, Michigan, the molten iron is moved three miles in a bottle car with a large opening (for filling and emptying), resulting in a significant loss of heat from both the molten iron, on the outward journey, and the bottle car’s insulating “refractory brick” inner surface on the return trip. U.S. Steel wishes to conserve as much heat as possible within the hot metal bottle cars, without hindering the steel loading and unloading processes.
The goal of the Michigan State design team is to develop a lid that will function as an insulator and preserve as much of the heat within the hot metal bottle cars as possible. The lid must be designed to be safe and easy to use, to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays in the transportation of the steel, and the iron does not cool excessively inside the metal bottle. A prototype of the final design will be analyzed and tested for potential implementation by U.S. Steel.
U.S. Steel: Cover for a Hot Metal Transfer Car
United States Steel Corporation is an integrated steel producer with major operations in the United States, Canada, and Central Europe. Between all locations, U.S. Steel has an annual raw steelmaking capability of 27 million net tons. At their location in Ecorse, MI, molten iron is transported three miles by hot metal cars from the blast furnace to the steel shop. The hot metal cars have a large opening in the center allowing molten iron to be poured in and dumped out. Currently, this hole is uncovered at all times, resulting in a significant loss of heat energy from the molten iron. Previous attempts have been made to create a cover for the hot metal car but all have proved ineffective. U.S. Steel wishes to create a reusable, removable cover in order to retain heat inside the hot metal car, which will reduce the amount of energy required to reheat the molten iron to the required temperature when it reaches the steel shop.
The MSU team will carry out a heat-transfer analysis of this cooling process and design a cover for the hot metal car that can operate in a confined space and withstand extreme temperatures, without interrupting day-to-day steel production. When the optimized design is completed, it will be manufactured and tested at U.S. Steel on the hot metal cars.
Robert Bosch: System to Measure Axial Play in a Throttle Shaft
Bosch is an international engineering and electronics company which sells products to a large number of different industries. One particular automotive product—the Electronic Throttle Body (ETB)—is tested at the Farmington Hills, MI, facility for customers throughout the world. An ETB is a component responsible for controlling airflow through a throttle valve to the engine in both gasoline port fuel injection and direct injection vehicles. Because of manufacturing tolerances, a certain amount of linear displacement of the throttle shaft and plate is allowed within the cylindrical housing. Measurement of this movement or “axial play” is currently carried out before and after durability tests to ensure that the movement complies with customer specifications. However, the current test setup and run time is long and complicated and requires removing material from the throttle body housing so that an ETB can only be tested according to this procedure once.
The goal of this project is to design and build a test fixture and procedure that allows measurement of the axial play of the throttle plate in a simpler and faster way. To meet Bosch’s specifications, the displacement of the throttle rod must be measured with one micron accuracy when a prescribed force is applied in both the positive and negative axial directions. A modular fixture will be designed, fabricated and delivered to Bosch for evaluation.
DTE Energy: System to Analyze Precipitator Performance
DTE Energy is located in Detroit, MI, and provides gas and electricity services to over three million residential, business and industrial customers within Michigan. To provide these services, DTE Energy maintains a wide range of energy-producing facilities, such as power stations. In the exhaust gas system of its Trenton Channel facility, an electrostatic precipitator is used to clean exhaust gas by trapping and removing dust particles from the exhaust-gas flow and help meet emission regulations for coal-burning power generation. The precipitator plates require periodic cleaning by mechanically shaking or ‘rapping’ to maintain their effectiveness. DTE Energy is interested in building a decision analysis system to monitor the effectiveness of electrostatic precipitator cleaning by rapping and to schedule their maintenance to provide the most effective particle removal with the least maintenance cost.
The MSU team will design an online measuring system to acquire data on rapping effectiveness using an accelerometer attached to the rapper’s shaft. The data will be fed into a MATLAB decision analysis system, filtered, and used to infer the effectiveness of that particular rapper section. A pilot scale model, based on the Trenton Channel Unit 9 precipitator, will be built and tested.
Eaton Aerospace: Fixture for Measuring Skewed Roller Bearing
Eaton Corporation provides energy-efficient solutions to help its worldwide customer base manage electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power in a more efficient, safe and sustainable manner. Eaton’s Aerospace division specializes in flight control systems for military and commercial jet customers. These systems use actuators to control the motion of flaps, slats, and doors on aircraft. Overloading these actuators causes detrimental damage to either the actuator or the adjacent aircraft structure. To prevent overloading, single and multi-plate skewed roller assemblies are used. These skewed roller assemblies limit the force and torque experienced by the flight control system by adding friction to the system. Thus, understanding precisely how much friction a skewed roller assembly adds to a flight control system is essential.
The MSU team will focus on characterizing the coefficient of friction of a skewed roller assembly by designing and building a test fixture to allow accurate measurements of the coefficient of friction under different operating conditions. With a better understanding of the coefficient of friction, Eaton can optimize the design of their flight control systems and reduce the total weight of aircraft components. The success of this project should have a significant impact on Eaton’s future designs.
EMD Technologies: Smart Braking System for Strollers
EMD Technologies is a product development engineering design firm based in Addison, Illinois. EMD’s focus is “making dumb products smarter” through the use of smart technology. One of EMD’s current in-house projects is the “Guardian Angel” line of products. EMD is using smart technology to create “actively safe” products for infants and children. The first Guardian Angel product is a home power outlet with sensor technology that prevents injury from foreign objects entering the outlet. EMD is planning to expand its product line to include an improved stroller design with an automatic braking system that engages when a parent removes his or her hand from the stroller handle. The sensor technology to engage and disengage the brake has been developed and implemented. However, EMD has been dissatisfied with the reliability and robustness of the mechanical brakes currently deployed with this system.
EMD has asked the MSU design team to develop a more reliable mechanical brake to interface with their sensor-activated automatic locking technology. The requirements for the mechanical brake are: improved reliability and robustness; low energy consumption; modularity with other stroller designs; and fast engagement speed. In addition, the brake system must be childproof, quiet and aesthetically pleasing on the stroller structure. The new brake system will be a working prototype that meets all stated requirements and can be demonstrated to stroller manufacturers who may wish to partner with EMD.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Design of a Compliant Fascia Support
Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), formed in 2009, is the world’s seventh-largest automaker and competes globally, producing automobiles to be driven throughout the world. Since FCA is global, it must manufacture vehicles to meet different regulations for different countries and regions. Vehicle-pedestrian accidents are most common in the more populous European and Asian countries. To minimize injuries resulting from these collisions, the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) has created regulations that require vehicle manufacturers to increase the safety of the pedestrian when such an accident might occur. Currently, when a vehicle strikes a pedestrian, the upper leg is often hit by the fascia, many components of which might then collapse. The upper leg may also come in contact with a large, extremely rigid, plastic bracket which may cause severe injury to the pedestrian.
The Michigan State team will help FCA meet the new Euro NCAP regulations for pedestrian upper leg protection by designing a shock-absorbing component to be positioned in the front fascia assembly, between the fascia and the hard plastic bracket. Computer simulated impact tests will be designed and performed to help determine an optimized design of this assembly.
ArcelorMittal: Design of a Secure Facility Entry Gate
ArcelorMittal is the world’s leader in steel production and mining and its plants are located all over the world. As a global leader, the company has a strong desire to reduce its carbon imprint on the planet by recycling steel. As recycled steel has become a valuable commodity today, securing the entryway to the recycling and storage facilities to prevent theft has become necessary. Currently, at its Indiana Harbor plant, two guards investigate each entering vehicle by approaching the vehicle and stopping it to validate employee credentials or permits for access to ArcelorMittal property. This process has proved ineffective on some occasions and so ArcelorMittal is exploring other options to secure this entryway. In addition to improving security, ArcelorMittal is also interested in rerouting, repaving and expanding its existing traffic lanes to further smooth the flow of trucking and employee traffic into its recycled-steel facility.
The MSU Engineering team will explore and evaluate different approaches to securing and expanding the entryway using gates and dividers. The most favorable options must meet specified budget and energy conservation requirements. A prototype of the optimal design will then be 3D printed and presented, together with detailed design specifications, to ArcelorMittal.
Robert Bosch: Test Bench for Natural Gas Injector
Bosch is a multinational engineering company headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, which makes a wide range of innovative products for the automotive, consumer, and industrial sectors. Bosch’s automotive technology group supports research and development into natural gas injector systems and their applications. These systems are used to inject fuel into the cylinders of engines, and particularly those used in the domestic trucking market. Currently, Bosch does not have an efficient way of testing the performance of natural gas injectors. It has, therefore, assigned to the MSU design team the task of designing, building and testing a pneumatic test bench on which the performance of natural gas injectors can be analyzed.
The goal of this project is to design and fabricate a prototype test bench that will be used to perform testing of the electro-mechanical functions and measurement of the mass flow per injection of different injectors and injector types, to support other testing programs within Bosch. To achieve this goal, structural design calculations, computational fluid dynamics, and finite element analysis techniques will be performed to ensure the design solution meets the required integrity and safety factors at a minimal weight and cost.
Ford Motor Company: Pressure-Reactive Piston Engine
Ford Motor Company has been at the forefront of automotive technology since its inception in 1903. From the integrated moving assembly line to the first full-sized aluminum pick-up truck, Ford’s success and longevity have relied heavily upon innovation throughout its history. With the increased demands for fuel economy from both government regulation and consumers, there is a need to develop increasingly fuel-efficient passenger vehicles. One potential opportunity for significant fuel-efficiency gains in internal combustion engines lies in varying the compression ratio within the cylinder under differing load conditions. Historically, variable compression ratio engines have been the subject of considerable research but have lacked the robustness required for commercial viability. Recently, engineers within Ford’s Advanced Research and Innovation Powertrain group have developed a spring-loaded piston that may provide the characteristics needed to bring this technology to market.
The design group from Michigan State University has been asked to derive a mathematical model of a piston loaded with a particular kind of spring that would facilitate the implementation of such “pressure-reactive” pistons in internal combustion engines. These piston assemblies are intended to increase compression ratios, and therefore efficiency, under low load conditions while simultaneously eradicating “knock” by passively reacting to the high pressures within the cylinder when under high load conditions. After validation using finite element analysis and physical testing, the mathematical model will be used to optimize the spring design to meet the geometric constraints of a variety of engines.
Gilbarco Veeder-Root: Redesign of a Display Subassembly
Gilbarco Veeder-Root is one of the largest global suppliers of fuel dispensers, point-of-sale systems, payment systems, and support services. Each fuel dispenser utilizes a card reader, PIN pad, and display to interact with the customer. Each component contains PCBAs, wiring, and clamps. In Gilbarco’s previous fuel dispenser models, each part was attached directly to the main assembly. In order to increase output for their leading E700 Model, a subassembly was designed for the display components utilizing one metal bracket per unit. This created a more efficient assembly process, which increased production but also increased material cost. Gilbarco is interested in designing a new subassembly concept for their EMV model that increases output of the E700 but reduces material cost.
The MSU team will develop a prototype that will eliminate the need for a bracket in every unit, enabling assembly time to be reduced and material cost decreased. Gilbarco’s current bracket subassembly will be redesigned to incorporate a template, which can be removed after the main assembly of each unit. The template will fit the design geometry of the EMV card reader, PIN pad, and display. Each component of the subassembly will be mounted to the template and secured using a fastening mechanism. After attaching the components to the main assembly, the template will be removed and reused on the next subassembly. Thus output is increased while material cost is reduced with the elimination of one metal bracket per unit.
Consumers Energy: Automated Measurement of Liquid Levels
Consumers Energy, headquartered in Jackson, MI, is the largest combined utility company in the state of Michigan, providing natural gas and electric services to approximately two-thirds of the state’s residents. In gas delivery systems, a sulfur-scented odorant is added to the gas as a safety precaution. The detection of that odorant outside gas lines is then indicative of gas leaks. For inventory purposes, it is important to be able to measure the levels of the odorant fluid in storage tanks located at the company’s nearly 100 natural gas city gates. For decades, Consumers has used a dipstick method for checking the odorant levels at these sites. This method is costly in manpower requirements and the opening of tanks to insert dipsticks can result in false gas leaks being reported.
Consumers Energy desires an innovative solution to allow the collection of odorant level readings with an automated system that can be read both on-site and through their supervisory control and data acquisition system at any time. The MSU team is working to develop a level assessment system that will integrate with the company’s existing infrastructure while providing the ability to check odorant levels remotely. The team will demonstrate a prototype system for Consumers to test and refine prior to implementation in the field.
IAC International: Redesign of Paint-Line Rack
International Automotive Components, Inc. (IAC) has more than 100 years of expertise in the manufacture of automotive interiors. The company has approximately 100 locations in 21 countries, including 25 design, technical and commercial centers, and employs 32,000 people globally. IAC would like to improve the performance of its current paint line by increasing the number of parts (of different sizes and weights) painted on its racks. The current paint line requires frequent changing of racks, which is time- consuming and reduces the throughput of parts each day. The new design is to be an integrated rack which will reduce the number of workers needed to operate the line, create a denser and more efficient workspace and increase the fluidity of its painting operations.
The MSU team will design a range of rack configurations to meet IAC’s functionality criteria presented by IAC. The ideal rack will support a range of automotive parts and be optimized for weight, durability and ease of use. A prototype rack will be designed, built and delivered to IAC for testing.
Kautex Textron: Optimization of Fuel-Tank Baffles
Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company with operations in 25 different countries and approximately 32,000 employees. Textron is known for its many brands, one of which is Kautex- –one of the top 100 suppliers to the automotive industry. Its products include tank systems, selective catalytic reduction systems, clear vision systems and camshafts. Kautex has revolutionized the manufacture of fuel systems by introducing the first plastic fuel tanks to the market. These tanks have advantages over metal tanks such as corrosion resistance, weight reduction, permeation behavior, recyclability, and design freedom. Because of these features, plastic tanks are now used in almost 90% of the United States automobile market.
The MSU team has been asked to optimize the design of baffles located in a fuel tank in order to reduce sound and vibration caused by sloshing fuel motion inside the tank when a vehicle stops. An optimized design should reduce the sloshing noise by at least 50 decibels (db) for the first slosh, and 40 db for the remaining sloshes. The team will design, fabricate and test tank-baffle systems in order to select an optimal design.
Meritor: Design of a Transfer Case Internal-Oil Cooler
Meritor is a leading global supplier of automobile components for commercial vehicles and industrial markets, with its headquarters located in Troy, Michigan. During government regulated performance tests, the temperature of Meritor’s transfer cases– mechanical assemblies which transfer power between transmissions and axles–can exceed their recommended range. Transfer cases contain many sources of heat including bearings, gears, seals, and the oil pump. Heat is transferred to the surroundings mainly through convection. In one particular performance test, the transfer case is run at a sufficiently low engine speed that the flow of air over the transfer case is too low to cool the transfer case components to acceptably low temperatures. Therefore, additional means of cooling are required.
The goal of this project is to explore design solutions to maintain the transfer case oil temperature within the desired range under both severe (low speed) and normal operating conditions. Two possible solutions: an internal cooling coil and an external heat exchanger, will be evaluated to determine the most promising design. A prototype of the optimal solution will be constructed to demonstrate its ability to fit in or around the transfer case without Meritor having to make significant changes to other features of their current transfer case designs.
Melvin Millet Learning Center: Switch-Activated Basketball Shooter
Melvin Millet Learning Center is located in Saginaw, Michigan, and is a school that addresses the unique needs of students with low incidence handicaps. The school has a population of around 270 students that range in age from 3 to 25. Students attending the learning center have from moderate to severe performance challenges that include cognitive impairment, physical impairment, health impairment and autism. The Learning Center currently has a basketball shooter that is 20 years old and has requested that students from Michigan State University design a new basketball shooter that can be used during games of wheelchair basketball.
The MSU team has been challenged to design a new basketball shooter that will allow students unable to manipulate the ball to participate in the activities. The new shooter design will be engineered so that it meets all safety requirements and will have a long service life. It must allow for ease of adjustment during use. It must be designed to be moved during and after use for storage and, due to the severe disabilities of some students, the shooter must be activated via a simple push button or proximity sensor. A prototype will be designed, built and tested at MSU before delivery to the Learning Center for further evaluation.
Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum: Design of an Energy Demonstration Table
Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum is located in Saginaw, Michigan. The museum accommodates children from birth to twelve years of age and provides exposure to interesting displays of everyday physical phenomena. The museum attempts to provide an environment in which children use their curiosity and creativity to learn about their world. The award-winning museum features interactive exhibits to facilitate learning. One display that demonstrates the concept of gear ratios is in need of redesign. The current exhibit is too complicated and appears to intimidate children.
The MSU design team was asked to upgrade the current exhibit so that children can easily understand how to use it and be exposed to the concept of gear ratios. The MSU team will consider various factors that must be taken into account when designing interactive mechanisms for children including safety, simplicity, and durability. For the design to achieve maximum functionality, it must be visually appealing and incorporate a straightforward assembly process for children who lack fine motor skills. The reconditioned display will allow children to create their own setups and will also include figures on the gears to demonstrate their rotational motion. The group will design and build a demonstration table and the upgraded gear exhibit to deliver to the museum.
Whirlpool Corporation: Dual Pumping System for Washing Machines
Founded and headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Whirlpool Corporation is the world’s largest major manufacturer, with 70 manufacturing and technology research centers throughout the world. For many years, Whirlpool has created high-quality washing machines that are both reliable and innovative. Currently, standard washing machines include a drain pump while higher efficiency models also feature a recirculation pump. This additional pump recirculates detergent-rich water from the base of the tub back onto the clothes, thus conserving water and saving energy while providing better cleaning. Although this system conserves water for the consumer, the overall unit cost is higher due to two separate pump motors. Whirlpool is, therefore, interested in designing a pumping system which combines the drain and recirculation pumps. The new system must be able to function and maintain the same standards of the individual pump systems while only using one motor.
The MSU team will create new concepts for this combined system that meet the specified Whirlpool requirements. A Pugh Matrix will be utilized to determine the most inventive and effective design. A prototype of the optimal design will be built, tested, and refined, then delivered to Whirlpool for further evaluation.