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A Mechatronics Capstone Project with an Interdisciplinary Team and an Industrial Partner

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone Courses

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.63.1 - 25.63.18



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Paper Authors


Blair T. Allison Grove City College

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Blair T. Allison is professor and Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Grove City College. He teaches courses in engineering design, mechanics of materials, materials science, control systems, and finite element analysis. Areas of research interest include the modeling and control of metal forming processes, manufacturing automation and control, and dimensional control of components and assemblies. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his B.S.M.E. degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Address: 100 Campus Drive, Grove City, PA 16127; Email:

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Stephen Ludwick Aerotech, Inc., and University of Pittsburgh

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Stephen Ludwick develops high-precision automation systems for Aerotech, Inc., in Pittsburgh, Penn. His main emphasis is on mechatronics and control system design. In addition, he teaches in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh.

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William P. Birmingham Grove City College

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A Mechatronics Capstone Project with an Interdisciplinary Team and an Industrial PartnerAbstractA team of mechanical engineering and computer science students carried out a capstone projectfocused on the design, fabrication, assembly, and testing of a three-axis computer controlledmachine tool for notching thin-walled tubes using a milling process. These notched tubes arejoined to other tubes to produce frames for vehicles for student competitions (e.g., Mini Baja orhuman powered vehicles). This paper reviews mechanical design efforts, fabrication, assembly,derivation of axis trajectories, software development efforts, and the integration of the hardwareand software components that resulted in a successful three-axis tube notcher. Thismultidisciplinary project required close cooperation between mechanical engineering andcomputer science students.The students in the first year of the project designed and built a two-axis (linear-rotary) CNCmachining center. Particular emphasis was placed on determining the functional requirements ofthe design as set by the eventual “customers” in the Mini Baja and human-powered-vehiclegroups. Different sub-groups of students focused on collet design (including finite-elementanalyses), mechanical design of the motion axes, cutting force tests for spindle sizing, servotuning for the motion axes, and programming for readily converting solid models of the intendedparts into trajectories.In the second phase of the project, two years later, the students increased the functionality byadding a third controlled axis to the machining center. This axis allowed the appropriate bevel tobe cut on the tube ends for a flush mate to the adjoining part. This required a substantial rewriteof the user interface software, redesign of the mechanical systems for the integration of the thirdaxis, metrology and calibration techniques, and a focused study on ergonomics and safety. Thisproject concluded with a functional device that is in use by the student design teams as intended.The nature of the team interaction is described. Positive and negative aspects of the teamexperience are discussed. The project was made possible through the involvement of anindustrial partner (Aerotech, Inc.) who provided equipment (actuators, controllers, and associatedsoftware), technical support, and input during design reviews.   ASEE 2012 Annual Conference – Abstract Submission  Page 1 of 2    ASEE 2012 Annual Conference – Abstract Submission  Page 2 of 2 

Allison, B. T., & Ludwick, S., & Birmingham, W. P. (2012, June), A Mechatronics Capstone Project with an Interdisciplinary Team and an Industrial Partner Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20823

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