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Laser cladding machine fusing materialsA team of engineering students has saved a local manufacturer thousands of dollars by reducing waste of tungsten carbide.

Students engineer solution to material loss at local manufacturer

A team of engineering students has saved a local manufacturer thousands of dollars by suggesting improvements to shop floor production processes.

As part of their coursework, PhD candidates Maryam Shafiei Alavijeh, Danilo Stocco, Victor Eghujovbo and master’s candidates Alireza Pasha and Zahra Nazemi partnered with Lincoln Laser Solutions, a Windsor-based company that specializes in laser cladding and additive manufacturing, and found improvements that could save the company $30,800 annually.

“Part of the course requirement is for the students to complete a hands-on project where they must apply process improvement methods and tools learned in the class,” says professor Asif Khan, who teaches the class Lean Manufacturing and Process Improvement. “The focus of this group-based project is to study a process, identify waste and loss, find the root cause, and propose countermeasures to attack the loss.”

Based on a plant manager’s indication of high powder consumption at Lincoln Laser Solutions, the team identified a problem with the storage and usage of tungsten carbide, which is the main material used for laser cladding — the fusing of dissimilar metals with a laser.

The team developed a labeling process for the in-use bottles and a logbook controlled by the production supervisor. The two-label system includes labels on the in-use bottles and matching labels in a new bottle warehouse key chain.

“This way, the production supervisors would only use a new bottle when they confirm that the in-use bottle is empty by matching the labels in the bottle and keychain into the logbook,” says Pasha, the team’s project leader.

Sean Whitfield, general manager at Lincoln Laser Solutions, says the company was impressed with the team’s conduct and the solutions they were able to propose with the limited time they were on-site due to COVID-19 precautionary measures.

“It’s always nice to bring in a fresh set of eyes on a process to help optimize it as we can sometimes get lulled into accepting status quo,” Whitfield says. “We will look to implement some solutions that were proposed right away and will look at phasing in a variation of the other conclusions upon the completion of our plant expansion.”

The student team was forced to move its weekly meetings online due to COVID-19 precautions, but was still “able to learn, establish a new connection with an industrial partner, and practice what we have learned in a real-world situation,” says Pasha.

“By doing so we were able to gain hands-on experience and also help a local business save thousands of dollars and help them excel more in what they are already great at.”

Khan says since the course launched in 2013, students have completed more than 195 practical projects at 35 local businesses.

“Partnering with local industry is a win-win situation, as our students gain hands-on experience while developing improvements that can result in potential savings for local industry,” says Khan. “We have received a great response from the hosting companies on the value added.”

—Kristie Pearce