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FALL/WINTER 2001-2002

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Engineering students play key
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Engineering students play key role at Lindberg/Blue M Electric

ME students with COE Dean Peercy

Students (standing left to right): Brady Schroedl, Vivek Swaminathan, Jake Allen, COE Dean Paul Peercy, Austin Mueller; (kmeeling): Tony Langeweg, Don Toyne and Abhijay Bhatia Took part in the project. (24K JPG)

Recently Watertown, Wisconsin, manufacturer Lindberg/Blue M Electric overhauled two of its major product lines — standard and industrial batch ovens totaling 64 possible size and model configurations — and their respective manufacturing processes. Such an undertaking is a feat in itself, but the project team recorded an even greater triumph when it completed the monumental task in only four-and-a-half months.

Of that 18-member project team, seven UW-Madison engineering interns were there to help, including mechanical engineering student Jake Allen.

Blue M makes and sells industrial ovens and environmental and thermal shock chambers, and company managers hoped a product update would attract new customers. "The team's task was reinventing the future of the Blue M product," said Michael Rodrigues, electrical engineering team leader.

The UW-Madison students played a critical role in jump-starting the project — but by accident, said Rodrigues. "They actually came on board about a week or so before our contract engineers did," he said. And by the time the professional engineers arrived, the students already had produced a preliminary design. A week after that, the team conducted its first conceptual design review, and shortly thereafter, manufacturing staff created a full-size mock-up of the oven.

ME student Jake Allen helped design a sheet metal base capable of supporting the oven's loads, incorporating electrical components, ventilation and connection points. "I had to work with the electrical engineers to see exactly what components needed to be present," he said. He designed for a "worst-case scenario," including space for every possible oven component.

Other student members of the mechanical engineering team included Austin Mueller, who helped design the oven's exterior housing, air chamber and safety components; Don Toyne, who worked on the oven's inner chamber components; and Brady Schroedl, who developed door assemblies for both single- and double-door ovens.

Just two-and-a-half months after the project began, the company built a production oven and shipped it to SEMICON West, a major semiconductor industry exhibition July 18 to 20 in San Jose, California. The final product is a sleek, streamlined oven. Unlike its predecessor, the new design features a control panel at eye level in the door, rather than in a box on the side or at the base just inches above the floor. Its modular design reduced assembly time from 27 hours to four, and there is more hardware in the oven's casters than in the rest of the product. An unexpected benefit is that the oven's ramp-up rate has increased from less than 10 degrees per minute to about 18 degrees per minute.

Not only did the project give the students hands-on experience, it instilled in them an even greater sense of teamwork. And Blue M staff believe they couldn't have accomplished their goals without the students' help. "They were phenomenal in getting things done on time and putting in extra hours as needed," said Rodrigues. "The students completed the design of the entire 146 product line and we released it two weeks early. After some minor tweaking of the design, we accomplished performance results that far exceed anything we'd done in the past."


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Date last modified: Thursday, 17-Jan-2002 10:51:00 CST
Date created: 17-Jan-2002

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