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Automation Of A Vacuum Furnace

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Capstone/Design Projects: Electr-Mech ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.244.1 - 10.244.12



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Paper Authors

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Robert Mueller

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1648

Automation of a Vacuum Furnace

Robert Lynn Mueller The Pennsylvania State University New Kensington Campus

Abstract A vacuum furnace is a device used in the production of silicon carbide crystals which are used in certain military applications. In order to create these crystals, a source material must first be made by combining silicon and graphite and baking it at temperatures which reach 3000° C in a perfectly uncontaminated environment of argon gas. By heating the crystals in a vacuum, it is possible to reach the necessary temperatures with less lower power as compared to heating at atmospheric pressure. This paper presents the design and implementation of a vacuum furnace automation project that was done as an Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology capstone senior design project. The automation was designed for a vacuum furnace that previously had only manual controls. The upgrade included additional instrumentation and a LabVIEW HMI for process monitoring and control, data collection, and recipe entry. This project was supervised by the Electro-Optics Center of Penn State University’s Applied Research Laboratory.

Senior Project Course The senior project is a capstone project course taken in the final term of the 4-year Bachelor of Science in Electromechanical Engineering Technology (BSEMET) degree offered at Penn State University New Kensington. The objectives of the course are to train the students in project management, communication skills (both written and oral), budgeting, application of engineering skills, and team building. Each project team consists of 2 students (or one team of 3 if the course has an odd number of students) and the students are allowed to pick their own teams. The team is usually responsible for selecting its project with the condition that the project must contain at least 3 fundamental components: measurements from an electromechanical system, control decisions based on those measurements, and then the control of electromechanical elements to achieve some design criteria.

During the first 2 weeks of the course, the student-teams work with the course instructors to discuss potential projects. For this term, the students were assigned projects. At beginning of the 3rd week each team must make a formal project proposal presentation. This presentation and written report account for 10% of the overall course grade. To accomplish the administrative objectives of the course, the project team must provide biweekly written and oral progress reports on project design-updates, schedule, and budget. This accounts for 25% of the course grade. At the end of the term, each project team is required to write a group project report detailing the project’s design and budget; this accounts for 25% of the grade. A formal project presentation that includes a demonstration of the project is also required and this counts for 25% of the grade. Additionally, each student also writes a “journal-style” paper regarding one particular technical aspect of the project. This contributes the remaining 15% of the course grade. “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Mueller, R. (2005, June), Automation Of A Vacuum Furnace Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14687

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