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Introducing Plastic Product Design Into The Machine Design Curriculum

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.376.1 - 3.376.6

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Reginald G. Mitchiner

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John T. Tester

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

Session 2566

Introducing Plastic Product Design into the Machine Design Curriculum

Reginald G. Mitchiner, Ph.D., and John T. Tester Mechanical Engineering / Industrial and Systems Engineering Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA 24060


We present our paradigm of plastic product design as a necessary part of the mechanical engineering design curriculum and how these concepts have been a historical part of the mechanical engineering educational agenda, though in other venues. We discuss the practical and accreditation problems associated with incorporating the "new" design features in an existing machine design course. A separate design course, dedicated to plastic product design, is also outlined. This last alternative is likely the best bridge from a machine design curriculum without plastics concepts to one with metallic/nonmetallic product design.

1 Introduction

Plastic products† are a dominant part of the manufacturing world. It is very likely that you the reader could, at this moment, reach out and touch a plastic product from where you sit. Yet, mechanical design curricula at universities, as a general rule, do not have plastic product design integral in their construction. The mechanical design curriculum has embedded within it the classical theory associated with metallic products; usually these products are assumed to be manufactured via metal-removal processes, if their manufacture is assumed in any manner at all.

As practicing mechanical design engineers, we (the authors) have frequently been required to design products with a plastic component as part of their basic structure. One of the authors' primary functions for several years was to design solely plastic products as part of electronic product packaging. The engineering knowledge required for such design tasks did not come from the traditional college curricula. Instead, such knowledge was obtained through many extension courses, plastic vendor training, and seminars. Indeed, the Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Department does not have plastic product design integral to any of the classes in the mechanical design course structure.

Plastic product design has its origins in a related field: Casting design. This is especially true we consider injection molding as the predominate process for plastics design. Both design disciplines have many similar design features: Draft angles, sprue locations, coring, cooling accountability and so on. The more seasoned of this article's authors recalls that the typical mechanical engineering curriculum of the past required casting processes and design as a fundamental requirement for graduating mechanical engineers.

† In the context of this article, we consider only thermoplastic products. Thermoset products are not within the scope of this discussion.

Mitchiner, R. G., & Tester, J. T. (1998, June), Introducing Plastic Product Design Into The Machine Design Curriculum Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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