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 were the project sponsors and projects for Spring 2016:
CMS Energy: Liquid Level Gauging System
CMS Energy is a public utility that provides natural gas and electricity to more than 6.6 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents. CMS Energy plans to increase safety and reduce costs by implementing a system that can better regulate the output of odorant into natural gas pipelines. Odorant is mixed with natural gas so that, in the case of a gas leak, the leak can be detected by smell. Utilizing too little odorant would be a safety concern, whereas too much odorant would be wasteful and costly. The output of odorant for mixing with gas depends on the odorant level in the tank, which is currently monitored by an employee who reads the liquid level gauge on-site. This procedure is both inefficient and sporadic, as tanks are sometimes not checked for days or even weeks.
The goal of this project is to design a solution that can accurately and remotely measure the liquid levels of over 60 odorant tanks across the state. The solution must fit a variety of tanks while meeting cost and safety requirements. The design must be non-intrusive such that the liquid level can be measured from outside the tank. The selected design will be assembled and tested thoroughly for accuracy and reliability before being presented to CMS for review.
ArcelorMittal: Reduction of Cobbling in Pickle Line Chopper
ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steel producer with a portfolio spanning the automotive, construction, home appliance, and energy industries. Its Burns Harbor, Indiana location is its second largest steel making facility in America, with an annual capacity of five million tons of raw steel. The final step in steel production is the finishing process, which takes place after the steel has been cast and hot-bertlled. The finishing process starts at the pickle line; this line runs sheet steel through hydrochloric acid to remove surface scale and trims the edges to the desired width. The strips of steel that are trimmed from each side of the sheets travel through a chute and are then chopped into short pieces to be recycled. The strips of steel often “cobble,” or tangle, in this chute between the circular trimmer knives and the cutting chopper. These cobbles require the line to shut down for an operator to remove the entanglement manually. Cobbling on this line causes approximately 2.5 hours of downtime per month and represents 2.2 million dollars of lost revenue per year.
The goal of this project is to design a new, robust chute system for scrap steel. This chute system will be designed to minimize the occurrence of cobbles, thereby reducing the line downtime, while satisfying constraints of ease of maintenance and operability, and high durability.
EMD Technologies: Enclosure Design for the Power Flame Torch
EMD Technologies is a company based in Addison, Illinois, with a history of innovation and successful product development in a range of applications, from safety and medical devices to consumer products. One of its consumer products is the Power Flame, a device that is an alternative to outdoor tiki torches or fire pots. Two shortcomings of these exterior torches are their inability to expel sufficiently large amounts of insect repellent into the air, and their use of a highly flammable and potentially dangerous fuel, which has also been known to cause serious injuries and death to children and adults. EMD’s solution to these problems is the Power Flame system, which uses a non-toxic and non-flammable fuel and is able to expel sufficient insect repellent into the surrounding air.
The goal of this project is to design an enclosure for the Power Flame system that will either prevent water entry into or permit water to be easily expelled from the enclosure. If water is to be expelled, it must be done without removing melted wax—the fuel source of the flame—in the process. The enclosure must meet the quality and functionality requirements of EMD Technologies, be functional and aesthetically pleasing to the consumer, and be manufacturable at a low cost and in a short timeframe. The team will construct and test a prototype of their optimal design and present it to EMD Technologies for further evaluation.
EMD Technologies: Design of a Crib Air Manifold to Reduces SIDS
EMD Technologies is an engineering consulting company located northwest of Chicago in Addison, Illinois. It serves a variety of customers, from individual entrepreneurs to well-established market leaders, and specializes in reinventing retail, consumer, medical, and commercial products to provide a competitive advantage. It is especially interested in creating products that help eliminate stress and danger in households and wishes to introduce a smart crib to its product line.
The goal of this project is to incorporate an advanced air manifold into the design of a crib. Recent research suggests that providing air movement around a sleeping child can reduce the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 72%. SIDS results in 2,500 – 4,000 deaths per year in children ages 1 month to 1 year. The MSU team will analyze a range of designs to provide the desired airflow rate and circulation patterns in the most efficient and reliable manner. The most effective design will be incorporated in a prototype which will then be tested and provided to EMD for further development.
Continental AG: Optimized Back Cover Design for Radar Sensors
Headquartered in Hanover, Germany, Continental is a leading manufacturer of automotive parts, ranging from tires and brake systems to powertrain and safety components. In an effort to improve driver safety, Continental is developing its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) unit, which employs sensors to operate adaptive cruise-control and blind-spot monitoring functions. Currently, the back cover of each ADAS unit is manufactured from die-cast aluminum. To meet the growing demand for ADAS units, Continental is interested in replacing the die-cast cover with an injection-molded one in an effort to significantly increase manufacturing tool life while simultaneously reducing production costs.
To maintain the thermal and mechanical performance of the current aluminum part, the team will research suitable resins for the back cover of the radar sensor. In addition, the geometry of the part will be redesigned due to the change from aluminum to a resin. An optimal cover design that best satisfies Continental’s heat transfer and injection molding requirements will be then be selected and tested for functional integrity.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: Vehicle Design Using Real World Drive Cycle Data
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has its headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and is one of the ten largest automakers in the world. It strives to make safer, more reliable and more efficient vehicles. One way in which it does so is to incorporate drive cycle data, from recorded driving patterns of customers, into the design of its vehicles’ components. Data on driving patterns can be used to compute load conditions on individual components of each vehicle. This load information is useful for indicating where failure or misuse occur in the life cycle of vehicle components. FCA uses this information in the design process by developing in-house drive cycles, based on driving-cycle data, for components and so anticipates and corrects potential problems before the vehicle is released to market. However, as real world driving conditions change, it is important to refine in-house drive cycles used for testing to ensure they still represent real world usage.
The objective of this project is to develop software to use the real world driving database for individual vehicles (of various makes, models, in different regions, cities and climates), compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to undertake analyses of vehicle driving patterns and component loads. The results of these analyses will then be compared with results from FCA’s in-house model to refine this model and consequently the design criteria for FCA’s components.
Environmental Protection Agency: Road Speed Fan for Vehicle Dynamometer Tests
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts research and enforces regulations in many areas relating to human health and the natural environment. Topics of study and regulation include: air, climate change, ecosystems, health, land, waste and cleanup, pesticides, substances and toxins, sustainable particles, and water. The EPA also conducts vehicle fuel economy and exhaust gaseous and particulate emissions tests on all vehicles sold in the United States. Some of these tests are carried out with vehicles mounted on dynamometers, with the effect of air motion replicated using a system of road speed fans. The EPA is interested in designs for such road speed fans that reduce operational costs and satisfy sustainability testing targets.
The objective of this project is to develop a road speed fan system with optimal energy efficiency and airflow uniformity that can be implemented in dynamometer test cells at the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory. Airflow inefficiencies and path obstructions of the current fan system must be identified in order to reduce power requirements during vehicle testing. A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model will be constructed to demonstrate how the optimal fan system results in improvements in airflow uniformity and associated electrical savings over existing systems, in a complete test cycle that spans a range of road speeds.
Gerdau Steel: Camera Mount for a Vacuum Degasser
Gerdau Steel is the world’s 14th largest steel manufacturer, currently producing around 26 million metric tons of steel per year. An important part of the steelmaking process is vacuum degassing—the removal of nitrogen and hydrogen from molten steel by placing it in a vacuum chamber. This refinement process helps to produce steel without mechanical embrittlement, blowholes, or nitrides caused by nitrogen. It also produces steel without a reduced tensile ductility due to excessive hydrogen in the steel after solidification. The amount of argon gas released into the vacuum chamber during degassing is critical to producing flawless steel. In order to monitor the argon concentration, an operator at the Gerdau plant must look through a window into the chamber to determine when sufficient argon has been added.
The challenge for the MSU engineering team is to design a mount to hold a camera that will image the vacuum degassing chamber so that the process operator can monitor when enough argon has been added to the degassing chamber without having to leave the control room. A custom camera mount, which can withstand the extreme conditions within a steel plant, will be designed and manufactured to accommodate a camera specified by Gerdau Steel. The prototype will be built and undergo preliminary testing at MSU and then on-site testing at Gerdau Steel’s Jackson facility.
Michigan AgrAbility: Design of an Outdoor Wood Furnace Loader
Michigan AgrAbility is a company that provides services to help farmers who are suffering from illness, disability or aging. It does this by researching, designing and developing farming tools, equipment and methods that will assist their clients in their daily work. Partnering with Michigan State University Extension and Easter Seals Michigan, and with funding assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michigan AgrAbility assists approximately 1,900 Michigan farmers each year. Currently a client, Dennis Johnston, uses a wood burning furnace to heat his home but has difficulty lifting and loading large logs into it. Michigan AgrAbility is interested in having a wood furnace loader designed that would allow the furnace to be loaded with little or no strain on the back, legs and arms.
The MSU team will investigate the problem on-site and develop multiple design concepts for simplifying or automating the loading process. An optimal design will then be selected and a prototype fabricated and tested at MSU. When all design requirements are met, this device will be transported and installed at the client’s home.
Michigan AgrAbility: Design of a Folding Step for a Tractor
Michigan AgrAbility provides services and assistance to individuals in the agricultural industry that have an injury, disability, or illness. Michigan AgrAbility researches and develops unique farming tools, equipment, and methods to help these people to be more productive.
To avoid collisions with objects on the ground, tractor steps are built to maintain high ground clearance. Typically, this gap is about 22 inches between the ground and the bottom step. While these steps can be challenging enough for a healthy person to climb onto, it is often nearly impossible for a farmer with physical restrictions or other disabilities to get into their tractor. Aftermarket steps have been created to address this concern, but these steps still leave a gap of a few feet between the ground and the first step. Static low hanging steps are not feasible as they collide with the uneven terrain of a farm. The goal of this project is to create a retractable extension to these aftermarket steps that provides stability and will allow a worker with very restricted movement to easily climb onto a tractor. After using the steps, the step extension will smoothly return to a stowed position where it will not interfere with rough terrain or any essential functions of the tractor.
If an ingenious design is conceived, it will be proposed as an aftermarket option to be produced by K & M manufacturing.
Heartwood School: Adaptable Gait Enhancement Device
Heartwood School, in the Ingham Intermediate School District, provides specialized rehabilitation facilities and staff for students with various disabilities, aged from 3 to 26 years. These students have moderate to severe cognitive impairments that hinder coordination while walking. Consequently, they currently require continual one-on-one assistance from Heartwood staff members, because they lack the self-confidence to walk unaided.
To bridge the gap between highly-supported (physically connected to a staff member) and independent walking, the MSU team will create an Adaptable Gait Enhancement Device. This device is a self-powered mechanism that the student grips with both hands while walking. The mechanism constrains the arm motions of the student to simulate those of natural swinging of the arms to promote balance and a normal gait. The mechanism will be designed to support the required loads using finite-element analysis. A prototype will be built and tested at MSU before being presented to Heartwood for further evaluation.
Ford Motor Company: Measurement of Driveshaft Joint Friction
Ford Motor Company is one of the largest automakers in the world with its headquarters located in Dearborn, Michigan. It designs vehicles which vary in size from 4-cylinder compact cars to heavy-duty commercial trucks. During Ford’s vehicle development process, engineers rely heavily on Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) simulations. CAE simulations assist engineers’ understanding of the design and allow them to identify design flaws early in the process. Ford is currently not satisfied with its driveline CAE models. In particular, the behavior of joints under driveshaft torque appears to be poorly simulated and consequently, experiments are needed to develop better joint-friction models.
Ford has requested that the MSU team redesign an existing test rig for driveshaft joint friction. Specific improvements include applying torque during testing, resolving vibration problems, and improving signal processing and recording. Data from this rig will be used to measure frictional forces in universal joints and the resulting torque on the driveshaft under simulated driving conditions in order to refine joint- friction models. It will help Ford improve the fidelity of its CAE modeling and increase the safety, durability, and quality of its vehicles.
Robert Bosch LLC: Design of a Waste Heat Recovery System
Robert Bosch is a German multinational engineering and electronics company headquartered in Gerlingen, Germany. It is a privately owned company with business interests in mobility solutions, industrial technology, consumer goods and energy/building technology. Bosch’s main products are automotive components for gasoline- and diesel-fueled engines, and for chassis systems. As the demand for more efficient vehicles grows, strategies such as waste heat recovery become of greater commercial interest. The Diesel Systems group at Bosch is exploring how effectively a Waste Heat Recovery (WHR) system, in which hot exhaust gas is used as the heat input to a Rankine cycle, might increase the efficiency of commercial vehicles.
The particular challenge for this team is to design a tank system for a Rankine cycle with ethanol as the working fluid. The tank system is placed upstream of the pump in the cycle and must be designed to use a system of valves to remove/purge air from the ethanol before it enters the pump. Purging will be achieved by using valves to control the volume of ethanol in the tank and release air to the environment. The team will design and build a prototype to test this concept.
CBS Solar: Optimized Solar Panel Mount Design
Contractor Building Supply, Inc (CBS) is a Michigan- based company that has been providing renewable energy solutions for nearly 40 years, and provides solar panels to residential and commercial customers. Its main office is located in Copemish, Michigan, and it serves Michigan and its neighboring states. CBS currently transports unassembled solar models to sites for installation. As an essential cost-saving measure, is it necessary to replace the current system with one in which pre- assembled models are transported to sites to reduce labor and installation costs.
The MSU Team will design a solar panel structure that can be pre-assembled at CBS Solar and transported safely to project sites. The final design will be a prototype that will hold four 300W solar panels of approximately 13ft x 6ft in area. The design must be able to withstand onsite environmental and fatigue conditions for 25 years. The prototype must also be cost-efficient and easy to fabricate so that it can be replicated easily. The prototype and transport method will be presented to CBS Solar for further evaluations and implementation.
Meritor, Inc: Simulator for Hybrid Electric Powertrain
Meritor, Inc. is an automotive supplier headquartered in Troy, Michigan. It specializes in axles, brakes/safety systems, drivelines, suspensions, and aftermarket parts for commercial vehicles, trucks, and military applications. Much of its revenue is from sales of axles for large transport vehicles. As hybrid electric vehicles become more prevalent across the global market, design simulation tools capable of providing insights into the performance of different hybrid electric powertrain configurations are needed to guide powertrain design. Meritor’s Hybrid Powertrain Performance Calculator for Commercial Vehicles is one such computational design tool intended to accurately predict the performance, component costs, and market potential of a tractor trailer equipped with a modern series hybrid electric powertrain.
The MSU design group is to create a robust and versatile simulation program to predict the efficiencies and costs of custom-designed hybrid powertrain systems. The program would use inputs such as time required to accelerate, speed on grade, traction limits and maximum speeds to predict the optimal hybrid electric powertrain configuration for the chosen vehicle. The program will be presented to Meritor for further refinement and use as a design tool.
Hitachi Automotive Systems: Gasoline Direct Injection Test Controller
Hitachi Automotive is a subsidiary of the global Hitachi Corporation—one of the largest technological conglomerates in the world and involved in a variety of industries including automotive components and systems. The greatest challenge facing today’s automotive industry is to maximize fuel efficiency while minimizing vehicle exhaust-gas emissions, and this challenge is directly related to the introduction of gasoline into engine cylinders using fuel injection. In order to improve gasoline direct injectors (GDI) to meet future emissions and fuel-economy requirements, Hitachi wishes to create a GDI test bench.
The MSU team will design, build and test one part of a GDI test bench: the hardware interface between the direct injection system and its controller. It will also program a graphic user interface (GUI) for the controller, thereby providing Hitachi with a primary component of the GDI test bench.
MSU Dept. of Entomology & Application Insight: Mist Cooling to Delay Budding in Apple Trees
Michigan’s agricultural industry contributes more than $100 billion annually to the state’s economy. In 2012, the Michigan apple farming industry suffered an 87% loss in its annual crop harvest due to weather: temperatures in early spring were higher than normal, which caused apple trees throughout Michigan to bud earlier than expected. A subsequent frost destroyed many young apple buds, and much of the crop was lost, prompting interest in ways of delaying budding. The MSU Department of Entomology, in conjunction with Application Insight, previously developed an advanced spraying system for pesticide distribution in high density orchards, and is interested in modifying it for use in an automated mist-cooling system, which could lower the temperature of prematurely warming buds by cooling the surrounding air through evaporative cooling, thereby delaying budding.
The goal of this project is to create an optimized misting control system to delay budding in apple trees. The system will have the capability of monitoring ambient temperature and humidity conditions in the orchard in order to determine when and for how long misting is required. The system will then automatically spray the plants according to the programming of a control system.
Trane – Ingersoll Rand: Design of an Improved Air Handling Inlet Hood
Trane® is a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand and specializes in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) products, both in residential and commercial subsets. This project focuses on the commercial division’s air handling systems, which are installed on the roof of a building and used for climate control, humidity control, and overall air quality control. These air handling systems have an inlet hood which covers the inlet airflow duct. This hood, together with a high performance moisture eliminator, is used to keep water out of the air handling units during precipitation (and particularly during wind-driven rains). These inlet hoods are too big to be shipped pre-installed, whereas more compact hood designs are difficult to manufacture.
The design challenge for the MSU team is to reduce the inlet hood size without compromising either the feasibility of manufacturing or the performance of the inlet hood in preventing water entrainment into the unit. The team will use computational fluid dynamics to explore different designs and optimize the one that best matches these criteria
Ingersoll Rand: Panel Mounting of HMI Fans in HVAC Units
Trane is a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand that offers climate control solutions for homes, as well as commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. It is a world leader in air conditioning (HVAC), heating, dehumidifying, and air cleaning systems. Horizontal Motorized Impellers (HMIs) are used in a number of its air handling units, because they are very compact and efficient air-moving devices. Multiple fans are required to produce sufficient airflow in mid- to large-size air handling units and these are currently floor-mounted. Although HMI fans are designed to be panel-mounted, the current wall assebly designs cannot support their weight.
The objective of the project is to develop a design that allows arrays of HMI fans to be mounted on the walls of the air handling units. An optimal design should be cost-effective and easy to manufacture, assemble, and install. Furthermore, the units are shipped when fully assembled and so must withstand shock loads and vibrations encountered during transportation to the installation site. The team is to evaluate various design approaches using FEA and cost analysis to determine their performance and feasibility. In doing so, it will create a general design tool that can be applied to all HMI and HVAC unit sizes.
Steelcase: Part Hanging System for Automated Paint Lines
Founded 1912 in Grand Rapids MI, Steelcase is a furniture company that specializes in products for the office, education, healthcare, and retail industries. In order to improve the efficiency and quality of painting in its manufacturing processes, Steelcase wishes to change from human line operators to an automated robotic system, thereby decreasing the amount of paint wasted as overspray and the number of operators required. Thus fewer resources are required to manufacture each part, and the environmental effects of wasted paint are reduced.
A primary concern with a robotic system is that the swaying motion of suspended parts that move through turns and elevation changes in a track makes automated spray- painting difficult. To address this concern, the MSU team was asked to redesign the interface between the parts and track on which they hang, with particular emphasis on minimizing the sway of parts as they traverse the track. To accomplish this design task, the team will conduct a series of trials, utilizing mathematical and engineering concepts and theories to determine several possible conceptual solutions. These solutions will be evaluated and the optimal one will be tested and presented to Steelcase.
Tenneco Inc: Design of a Thermoacoustic Demonstrator
Tenneco Inc. is a leading supplier of replacement parts for the automotive industry. Located in Grass Lake, Michigan, the company is pioneering developments in environment-friendly products and systems that enhance vehicle performance. In particular, Tenneco is exploring the development of technologies for energy recovery of waste heat from exhaust gases, which can reduce net carbon dioxide emissions and improve vehicle efficiency. One of these technologies is the thermoacoustic conversion of heat into acoustic energy, which is then converted into electricity by a diaphragm generator. Although the physical components of such a system are relatively simple, the intricacies of how the technology works can be difficult to explain. To address this issue, the team will design and develop a tabletop-size prototype to demonstrate the thermoacoustic phenomenon behind this energy-recovery technology.
After developing a prototype, a parametric study will be conducted to characterize the performance of the system according to the choice of stack and tube diameter, stack position within the tube and stack length. The results obtained from this investigation will form the foundation for further research and development of this technology for future marketable products.
Tenneco Inc: Design of a Compact Mat Cutting Tool
Tenneco Inc. is a leading manufacturer of vehicle exhaust systems, catalytic converters, and street-vehicle suspensions. Its catalytic converters have been used in vehicles for emissions control since 1975. The catalytic converter uses a ceramic substrate that is wash-coated in precious metals, which undergo catalytic reaction with carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and oxides of nitrogen in the exhaust gas to reduce the regulated emissions of the vehicle. The ceramic substrate is wrapped in a metal shell for protection, and a mat is used to form the barrier between the outer shell and the substrate. This mat, made of ceramic fibers, wraps around the circumference of the catalytic converter and rejoins with itself using a tongue design. This tongue design is currently manufactured using a tool and die method but often leaves fiber residue behind. Tenneco wishes to optimize the method of cutting its mats, as well as to add a 30° angled cut as another option for their customers.
This MSU team will create and evaluate a set of conceptual designs for a mat cutter based on Tenneco’s design constraints. An optimal design will be selected using a Pugh chart and a prototype will be built to perform at a high level of functionality, while being able to withstand several hundred uses per day. The final design will give a very precise cut each and every time, while being aesthetically pleasing.
Whirlpool Corporation: Lid Initiated Detergent Dispenser for Washing Machines
Whirlpool Corporation, located in Benton Harbor Michigan, is an international enterprise and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of household appliances, such as washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, ovens and microwaves. As part of its efforts to improve existing products and develop new ones, to increase customer satisfaction and market share, Whirlpool is interested in enhancing the user accessibility and simplicity of a top- loading, high-efficiency washing machine.
The MSU team will develop a system which eliminates the need for consumers to lift heavy bottles of liquid laundry detergent, by delivering the detergent directly from a reservoir to the washer basin. This system will be lid-actuated and mechanical in operation. A prototype will be delivered to Whirlpool for testing and possible implementation in future washing machines.
Whirlpool Corporation: Design of a Dryer Door Closure Fixture
Whirlpool Corporation, based in Benton Harbor Michigan, is a major appliance manufacturer. They make a wide variety of home appliances including washers, dryers, refrigerators, ranges, etc. This project is targeted at clothes dryers and the noise the dryer door makes when it is closed. This subtle detail of an appliance’s function is important to Whirlpool’s operations because it wants to improve all aspects of its current dryers to create a higher quality product in a competitive consumer marketplace.
The MSU engineering team will design a fixture that applies a force to close the door of any Whirlpool dryer. The fixture needs to be able to control and measure the rate of closure of the door and be able to provide that same rate of closure for all shapes, weights and sizes of doors. The rate of closure must be easily adjustable by the operator, either manually or via a software interface. It must also remain quiet for 0.25 seconds prior to and during door closure to allow for accurate noise measurement. The fixture also needs to be mobile and easy to assemble or disassemble to allow for use on different machines. A prototype of the optimal design will be built and tested at MSU and then presented to Whirlpool for further application.