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Board 127: Adding Inexpensive Sand Casting to Mechanical Engineering Capstone – Impacts on Student Inventiveness and Attitude

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division (MECH) Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering Division (MECH)

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Cristian D. Jacome

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Ting Dong University of Florida


Matthew J. Traum University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Matthew J. Traum is the GatorKits Lab founding PI. He is a Senior Lecturer & Instructional Associate Professor in UF’s Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department and founding Past Chair of the Engineering Design Center at UF. Dr. Traum is a well-known higher education administrator, fund raiser, educator, and researcher who is regarded as subject matter expert on lab kit instructional pedagogy for remote, in-person, and hybrid STEM education. Prior to his UF appointment, Dr. Traum was founding CEO of Engineer Inc., a successful for-profit education technology social enterprise that produced STEM lab kits for universities and K-12 schools. Previously, Dr. Traum was Associate Professor and Director of Engineering Programs at Philadelphia University; an assistant professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), one of the nation’s top-ten undergraduate-serving engineering universities; and a founding faculty member of the Mechanical & Energy Engineering Department at the University of North Texas – Denton.

Traum received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT and two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California – Irvine: one in mechanical and the second in aerospace engineering. In addition, he attended the University of Bristol, UK as a non-matriculating scholar where he completed an M.Eng thesis in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

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Mechanical Engineering Capstone Senior Design at University of X (UX) challenges students to combine design, fabrication, and manufacturing skills to produce working pre-commercial product prototypes for customers external to the course. Parts must be created via appropriate manufacturing methods using available lab equipment. Historically at UX, Capstone parts were machined. However, machining some of the components requires special equipment and tools, which are not available in the lab, and purchasing commercial off-the-shelf products directly is expensive. In response, we acquired a tabletop casting kiln (originally meant for jewelry casting) and used it to sand cast aluminum 6061 parts for Capstone. Part patterns were 3D printed in PETG and used to build up green sand molds. Pattens were then removed, producing a hollow cavity into which molten aluminum from the kiln was poured. For the 2022 Summer course, only conventional sand casting was allowed, but 3D printed patterns also enable lost wax (lost PLA) casting, which will be explored in future UX ME Capstone courses. UX mechanical engineering students receive hands-on exposure to machining in earlier classes, but they have never experienced casting. We were therefore curious how availability of this new manufacturing technique would influence their Capstone design and fabrication plans, if at all. The kiln, a QuikMelt Pro 120 top loader from Tabletop Furnace Company, provides 1500 watts, heating to over 2200 F, and costs less than $600. Thus, casting is within the budget of most engineering Capstone programs, but is it worth the investment? How does access to sand casting capability influence design decisions engineering students make in Capstone? Does it change their enjoyment and/or perception of the class? To answer, we deployed a 5-question open ended survey to the first Capstone class, 2022 Summer, for which the casting foundry was available. A total of 9 out of 13 students enrolled responded to the survey, and we applied qualitative examination and thematic analysis and coding to evaluate the results. Students identified practical limitations including observations that 3D printed features smaller than 5 mm did not resolve well because sand particles adhere to the 3D printed pattern layers. This issue was minimized by printing layer heights of 0.1 mm. Sanding surfaces to create a smooth finish on the filament layer lines was also recommended. Another opportunity casting affords is recovering machining scrap to facilitate in-house metal recycling and reduce waste. Coordinating recycling with classes emphasizing machining provides significant reduction of material waste from subtractive manufacturing processes. Feeding waste metal into the kiln can produce billets whose value quickly recoups the cost of the kiln.

Jacome, C. D., & Dong, T., & Traum, M. J. (2023, June), Board 127: Adding Inexpensive Sand Casting to Mechanical Engineering Capstone – Impacts on Student Inventiveness and Attitude Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42436

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