VISION 2000: College of Engineering 1995 Annual ReportMECHANICAL ENGINEERING
VISION 2000: College of Engineering 1995 Annual ReportHR

Hand motions and voice commands from individuals immersed in the 3-D environment of virtual reality could quicken by months the design of future automobiles. Assistant Professor Rajit Gadh is in the early stages of the first "virtual design" project that would eliminate the need for engineers to sketch designs and send them to drafters. With this technology, he says, "a person could literally create virtual parts, grab them, and move them around." Then the design would be imported into a computer-aided design and drafting program. In a related area, Gadh is using research money from the National Science Foundation to develop software for detecting problem design features which, if modified early on, could reduce production costs by 50 to 60 percent.

To produce items such as film and milk jugs, molten plastics are forced through dies, leaving excess material on the die faces. These deposits interfere with the main flow and must periodically be removed. Assistant Professor A. Jeffrey Giacomin and his colleagues at the Polymer Processing Research Group and the Rheology Research Center have launched the first university study to find the cause of "die-lip buildup." Discovering the underlying cause will inspire new equipment designs which may require monthly cleaning only, rather than daily, thus greatly increasing production potential. A related study focuses on how the long-chain molecules disentangle during flow and re-entangle after flow, and why they slip near the walls during plastics extrusion.

Three basic factors determine the forms of mechanical artifacts: functionality; design and manufacturing processes; and tools available for describing shapes. Assistant Professor Vadim Shapiro's research focuses on understanding, systematizing and improving practices in each of these categories. He has been working with CAD/CAM software vendors to develop better ways of creating, manipulating and transforming spatial information. He has also been collaborating with companies to develop new and improved product development processes that take full advantage of geometric modeling systems and algorithms. Also, Shapiro conducts fundamental research on the combinatorial structure of mechanical artifacts. This research is aimed at the unification of physical, spatial and practical engineering information and models.

Assistant Professor Karen A. Thole wants to better gas turbine engine performance by improving blade cooling techniques. Through studying various effects on turbulent boundary layers, she is learning how to reduce heat transfer to blade surfaces. One study looks at the effects of a highly turbulent mainstream flowfield on a turbulent boundary layer. In this case, both surface heat transfer and surface shear stress are increased. Thole is also researching the film-cooling process in which a fluid is injected through a blade surface to protect the blade from hot mainstream combustion. She is investigating whether blades will be cooled more effectively if the geometry of the film-cooling holes is contoured.

Copyright 1995 University System Board of Regents

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Date last modified: 29-Nov-1995
Date created: 29-Nov-1995

1995 Annual Report Contents