Last fall, metallurgical manufacturer Eramet Marietta set out to see if it could improve efficiencies in its manufacturing process.
Part of the research to help pinpoint furnace inefficiencies included tracking the rate at which electrodes were used up during the process cycles. The system used by the Ohio-based company had long been in place was both time-consuming and susceptible to measuring variances.
“The previous way to gather necessary field measurements by our operators required them to climb a ladder and manually take measurements with tape and an indexing rope,” said Frank Vallera. manager of engineering and strategic projects at Eramet.
To improve the company’s process, one of its engineers designed a laser holder. Because the company anticipated several drafts before they had exactly what they needed, they required a quick turn-around for the prototype. An engineer with Pickering Associates, which worked with Eramet on the project, suggested the company work with Washington State Community College (WSCC), and connected them with John Burgardt, an instructor in the institution’s mechanical engineering department.
Leveraged into a lesson
Burgardt was able to turn the project into a classroom lesson where students used the college’s rapid prototyping 3D printer to quickly create a sample.
“Eramet was able to immediately try out the different configurations we created and settle on a final design without the extensive setup and tooling time that accompany traditional fabrication methods,” Burgardt said.
“The results of utilizing the new laser holder helped improve safety for our operators and also improved the quality and reliability of the measurements now recorded by a laser instrument, eliminating the potential for human error,” Vallera noted.
Eramet recently contributed $1,500 to the WSCC Foundation as thanks for the engineering class’ help. The donation will go toward the foundation’s annual scholarship fund.