Critically Damped has been sponsored by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to design and produce an automated or semi-automated device for the packing and overall shipping of small kit items. The device will be incorporated into an existing kit assembly line. The device, which must be operated by no more than two technicians, must precisely load kit items into a box without damaging the components. The device must reliably operate for many cycles and must be designed to operate using power available to SNC (electric or pneumatic). The device must fit dimensionally within the space provided by SNC and production of the device must not exceed the $5000 USD budget.
Proof of Concept
The specific company this teams packaging system will belong to is Sierra Nevada Corporation. However, the industry that this project can be classified under is the packing industry. Any kind of industry that involves packaging is relevant to Critically Damped’s project. There is a lot of competition in the packaging industry, all companies involved are trying to be the fastest and most efficient with their products. However all companies in the industry have specialized packaging systems for specific tasks. This team has prepared to enter this industry by researching the strengths and weaknesses of the top competitors on the field. Critically Damped has taken these factors into consideration while designing their packaging system. They will stand firm in the competition by making their specialized packing system faster and more efficient than the current packaging methods at SNC. The three major competitors are from the Asian-Pacific, North America, and Europe; these companies are Emerson Electric Co., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., and Siemens AG. One of the most common buying patterns happens after a new company opens, they need packing systems tailored to the specific needs of their products. The distribution pattern that suits this industry is a clumped distribution pattern. This means there is typically more need for a packaging system when a company starts up or expands, and there is less of this need when there are not any new opening companies. Overall, Critically Damped has taken the necessary factors into consideration when entering this industry.
A key feature of Critically Damped’s automated packaging design concept is a gravity fed hopper where for multiple components can be loaded and stacked on one another, which ejects an individual component into a chute. For the hopper to function, a single component must be able to be ejected from the hopper by overcoming the force of friction and the force applied by the stacked components on top of it. Critically Damped conducted engineering analysis to determine the required force to eject a single component under these conditions.
Critically Damped’s proof of concept is to recreate the hopper conditions and verify the calculated forces required to eject a component from the hopper. A test apparatus was assembled to replicate the conditions in the hopper. To simulate components stacked on the test component, a weight with a plastic covering was placed on top of the test component. To simulate friction forces, similar to what a component would experience in a hopper, the test component was placed in a plastic bag and placed between an aluminum plate and the plastic covered weight. The test component was then pulled from under the weight using a hook scale and the force required to eject the component was recorded. Multiple iterations of the test were completed using different weights and different plastic bags.
Fig. 1 shows the design for a hopper that Critically Damped attempted to recreated in order to verify the force required to push a component out. In this design, the plunger on the end of the pneumatic piston is slightly smaller than the component so it is still able to fit through the slot easily while pushing with an equal force on the whole component. This will also avoid the possibility of the next component in the stack getting jammed since it will be resting on a flat surface before the piston is retracted. The hopper is mounted to extruded aluminum with two U-brackets and everything is secured to a steel plate.
Fig.1 : The hopper design whose conditions were replicated with the team’s proof of concept test.
This product is intended to automatically package kit items into their specific slots within a divided box. With a budget of 5,000 U.S. dollars, Critically Damped came up with the idea to package both the heavy duty and standard batteries, and the battery charger with an automated system that the team designed. The team had to ensure the whole system would fit within specific dimensions given to them by SNC. This product will load the kit items accurately, without damaging them, and will load the boxes faster than the technicians. SNC wanted the team to build this system to decrease the time it would take to completely package one box, and/or decrease the amount of technicians used to package these boxes.
The purpose of this project is to semi-automate the packaging of kit items. This design is only semi automated because technicians would need to load the conveyor with boxes, load the hoppers when they are about to run out, and take the loaded boxes from the conveyor. This product is useful because it makes the process of boxing these components faster, making the overall process more efficient. This product also removes technicians from having to box items by hand, saving the company money by having the technicians, usually assigned to loading boxes, work in other areas. This product would be useful to users or companies looking to package products semi-automatically in order to increase efficiency, and save time and money.
Testing and Results
Meet the Team
Logan Cantrell is a Mechanical Engineering student originally from Reno, Nevada. One of the most challenging and rewarding projects Logan has been involved in was, in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team, designing and conducting an educational experiment with K-12 students in the Reno/Sparks community as part of the University of Nevada, Reno STEM outreach program. Logan is proud to have also completed internships at both Arconic and Panasonic, leaders in the aerospace and lithium-ion battery technology industries. Logan has developed many engineering skills during his academic career that will be a strong foundation for him to build from. Some of the most noteworthy skills he has developed include: engineering and mechanical design, mathematics and mathematical applications, application of physics and dynamics. His most immediate goal is to complete his studies at the University of Nevada, Reno and his goal after graduation is to work in the defense industry and become a licensed PE.
Riley Dohr grew up in Reno, Nevada, where he was born. He is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno. The biggest engineering challenge he has faced so far was developing, conducting, and analyzing a STEM-based lesson plan for kindergarteners about forces. This task proved challenging due to the necessary research and K-12 educational standards involved in creating a lesson plan for such a young audience. Since the beginning of his engineering academic career, he has developed his ability to work as part of an engineering group, generating parts with CAD software such as SolidWorks, as well as critically thinking using problem-solving techniques. For example, one problem-solving technique he has used is concept generation through morphological charts and decision matrices, which he learned to do in his Engineering Communications and Societal Integration class. Some of his personal accomplishments outside of school and work is assembling, wiring, and painting a custom Les Paul guitar and learning to play it, buying a motorcycle and learning to ride it, and racing his car at Top Gun Raceway in Fallon, Nevada. His short term goals include getting an internship in an engineering field and graduating university. His long-term goal is to make a living as a professional engineer.
Donna’s academic accomplishment include becoming a member of the Mechanical Engineering Honors Society: Pi Tau Sigma. Her other accomplishments are becoming a intern for NASA Ames Research center for two summers and then an intern at Panasonic for one summer. Another of her accomplishments is keeping her grade point average at a steady 3.5 while also being a student athlete for the Universities Women’s Lacrosse team. One of her accomplishments outside of school is helping bring the women’s lacrosse team place for the first time in third place in the regions finals. Over her time at the University, she has learned valuable skills that will help her in her engineering career. These skills include receiving extensive knowledge of Solidworks, and other CAD software, as well as understanding and finishing all required math classes, and from specific engineering classes she learned more problem solving skills that will also help her in the future. Donna has applied these problem solving skills by helping her roommates fix problems with their printer, refrigerator, and cars on multiple occasions. She did this by defining the problem and working backwards to find the cause of the problem and, if she had the tools, she would fix it for her roommates. She was born and raised in San Jose, California and decided to come to the University of Nevada, Reno because of her sister. Donna’s goals currently are to make the Dean’s list for the college of mechanical engineering and to have a good time while she is still in college. Her goals for after college are to either work for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or NASA. Then eventually to design and build her own house back in San Jose.
Nick was born and raised in Reno, Nevada, and is currently studying mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Nick has been involved in many at home projects including the design and fabrication of a 14-foot floating arm trebuchet, a steel forge, and a turbocharger system for his car. Between his personal and school projects he has gained knowledge in areas such as Arduino coding, Solidworks design, and basic fabrication techniques such as welding and CNC operation. Nick was also involved in the human powered vehicle club during the 2017 – 2018 school year and is currently Vice President of the club. Nick loves to spend his free time working on his car, playing the piano, and hanging out with friends.
One of his largest engineering challenges was his internship at Pan Mixers South Africa, where he worked to design, fabricate, and troubleshoot automated block making machines. Nick’s current goal is to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. In the future Nick hopes to pursue a master’s degree and eventually get a job in the aerospace field, preferably at Boeing or Airbus.
Born and raised in Reno, Cameron has been a recipient of the Dean’s List for the College of Engineering three times and has maintained a 3.7 GPA. The most challenging engineering project that he has been apart of is during his internship at Panasonic. He was tasked with determining the lifespan of a specific cutting blade by inspecting the blade and tracking certain defect rates throughout its use. There were many random spikes in the defect rates and it was difficult to correlate this with the blade wear. Cameron has developed many engineering skills throughout school. These include the use of Matlab, SolidWorks, Excel VBA coding, and various mathematical and physics application skills. Outside of school and work, Cameron is proud of his musical accomplishments. He has been playing drums for over 12 years, has played over 40 shows, and has recorded one full album and four EPs in the studio. At his first internship at Trex Company Inc, Cameron used his analytical skills to write Excel VBA codes to greatly increase the efficiency of data transfer between workbooks. The code allowed the workers to press a button, give a single input and all the data they wanted would be transferred over, rather than copying and pasting the data individually. Cameron’s goals right now are to continue his internship at Panasonic and have a high enough GPA to be on the Dean’s List for his last two semesters. Besides graduating in Spring, Cameron’s future goals are to pursue music and go touring, work as an engineer in a position where he can help the environment, and maybe open his own restaurant one day.