Equipment Support for Production Engineering Program

Grants and Contracts Details


The Department of Mechanical Engineering, through its Institute of Research for Technology Development (IR4TD), directed by Dr. Kozo Saito, proposes equipment purchase for hands-on learning enhancement for its Production Engineering (PE) program which is aimed specifically at engineering workforce for the automotive industry. Kentucky's economic development strategy stresses advanced manufacturing and depends in part on UK research and education to strengthen the key automotive industry sector. Kentucky is the nation's third largest producer of light vehicles, with four auto manufacturing plants in-state and a network of hundreds of suppliers locally and in the neighboring states. The PE program is a new University of Kentucky initiative in which classes are designed around problems to be tackled by groups of collaborating undergraduates. Courses for the PE program are project- and inquiry-based learning during which undergraduate students develop understanding and build technical and teamwork skills while investigating real-world problems. This approach is used to introduce students to automotive manufacturing's four core processes, namely stamping, welding, painting, and assembly and to a range of manufactured products used in automobiles. This course focuses on manufacturing technology, efficiency, and sustainability. B. PROBLEM STATEMENT Because it relies on project based learning, providing access to state of the art laboratory equipment is necessary to ensure successful student learning in PE. For this reason, the program seeks to acquire simulation software, and inspection and rapid prototyping equipment. Specifically, the enhancement will improve undergraduate student learning by strengthening their understanding of the benefits and limits of numerical simulation and the benefits and limits of hands on experiment-when either tool is used in isolation. Both tools are essential for the 21st century engineer but neither one is entirely stand-alone. The equipment will also boost student ability to innovate and practice self-directed learning by coupling rapid inexpensive prototyping to computer aided design tools to create a fast feedback loop from design (in a virtual dimension) to realization (in physical form). Classroom interaction with today's engineering students shows they are more comfortable with manipulation in the digital realm, less confident when involved with hands-on activity in the actual world of the manufacturing floor. IR4TD's frequent contact with manufacturing clients also tells us that numerical and experimental approaches to innovation and problem-solving must be used in tandem. As Henry Petroski explained, in To Engineer is Human, the computer is a blessing in being able to calculate beyond human ability or endurance to do so but it is not able, as humans can, to have "a feel for the design" or know what the right questions are to ask, things only hands-on experience can provide. Numerical simulation has clear advantages when assumptions are validated and all the important parameters are identified under static conditions. However, many engineering problems require solutions be identified under constantly changing transient and dynamic conditions. Here a Monozukuri approach, combining science and the art of engineering developed through experience and intuition, can offer unique solutions to these transient/dynamic engineering problems (A. Saito and K. Saito eds., Seeds of Collaboration: Seeking the Essence of the Toyota Production System, 2012). The Monozukuri approach can be effectively learned by combining the latest computer-based tools with hands-on experiments. C. OBJECTIVE The goal of the equipment proposal is to familiarize students with both numerical and experimental approaches so that they can use both effectively, while understanding the benefits and limits of each. The equipment will be used by groups of students collaborating to solve a problem; teaching each other the best use of the equipment (beyond the basic instructions given to all in class) will also serve to enhance the trust which is at the basis of effective teamwork. The first course results have shown the instructors (Dr. Nelson Akafuah and Dr. Ahmad Salaimeh) that improved learning would occur if students had ready access to the kinds of equipment that allowed them to quickly check the results of their designs and calculations for fit and function. Fast results are essential so that students get visible, tactile feedback and can examine their own process and see where they might have gone wrong or where they came up against the limitations of the approach. The idea is to shift students from dependence on a teacher for their learning to a more self-directed approach in which they take responsibility for their own learning and can begin to assess what they know and what they can do, what they need to know and where they need to improve. This shift is crucial in moving students toward lifelong learning and the kind of flexible responsive approach to new challenges that is essential for collaboration (as opposed to the increasing rigidity of someone defending a territory or the passivity of someone awaiting orders). Begun at the behest of Toyota, a series of Production Engineering-related courses will be launched over the next three years. Each will use a specific area of manufacturing as a focus for student learning of concepts and skills. For the next three years, the focus areas are automotive manufacturing processes that include stamping, welding, painting, assembling processes, and basics of Toyota Production System. The first year will also develop the infrastructure for rapid prototyping. This includes a 3D laser scanning system with software for 3D surface mapping and 3D printers to produce small to medium size products for rapid prototyping. Students will be guided through training on design for manufacturing through hands-on experimentation and modes of innovative thinking. The second year will seek to develop the infrastructure for thermal visual capability to enhance the ability of the student to conduct effective visualization and analysis of the produced prototypes. This will include non-destructive evaluation of defect and fault analysis and automation of inspection systems. At the core of this capability will be root cause analysis with plan-do-check-act hands-on training. The third year will continue the infrastructural development for non-destructive evaluation by developing a subsurface 3D scanning capability for subsurface mapping to be used for hidden fault and defect detection.
Effective start/end date6/11/156/10/18


  • Denso North America Foundation: $103,000.00


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