First Year Mechanical Engineering Student Builds EDM
Ian Wright posted on August 09, 2018 |
Mechanical engineering student Nathan Moormann is building and testing an electrical discharge machining setup for his Protégé Program project. (Image courtesy of Corrie Stookey/UC.)

Mechanical engineering student Nathan Moormann is building and testing an electrical discharge machining setup for his Protégé Program project. (Image courtesy of Corrie Stookey/UC.)

Engineering is cross-disciplinary, requiring multiple facets of science and technology. After a summer of research, first year mechanical engineering student, Nathan Moormann appreciates this more than ever. Moormann has spent all summer building and testing a setup for electrical discharge machining (EDM) as part of the University of Cincinnati Protégé Undergraduate Research Program.

The program is intended to give outstanding engineering students the opportunity to conduct research alongside UC professors the summer after their first year. Moormann is working at the UC Micro and Nano Manufacturing Laboratory alongside two graduate students and his mentor, mechanical engineering associate professor Murali Sundaram.

Moormann’s first task of the summer was to build an electrical discharge machining setup in-house. Under the guidance of his mentors, he quickly learned about the foundational components that enable the positioning, sparking and monitoring in the EDM process. He sketched designs in his lab notebook, gathered the necessary components from the laboratory and machine shop and combined everything into a functioning setup.

As is the case with most engineering projects, completing this one required skills from several disciplines of engineering. In this case, the EDM setup required a computer-based control system that could rapidly sense and control positioning in response to high voltage signals. Moorman wired the necessary electronics to the EDM setup, integrated them with a PC through a micro-controller and controlled the entire setup with software that he wrote from scratch.

“The circuitry was the single greatest challenge,” he said. “But getting to know circuits and dealing with those issues was also one of the more meaningful aspects of the project.”

Without an extensive background in coding or circuitry, Moormann successfully overcame these obstacles and built a working electrical discharge machining setup. While Moormann worked through many of these issues on his own, he was thankful for the guidance and mentorship provided by the graduate students in the lab.

“It’s been a really positive experience learning every day from other students during the project,” he noted.

Moormann has already started running tests on the machine he built, rotating the tool at different speeds and determining its effects on material removal rate and tool wear. He is compiling information into a formal report to present at the end of the semester.

This fall, Moormann is moving to an industry position for his first co-op, but he’s willing to keep his options open for future research. No matter where Moormann ends up, one thing is clear: the Protégé Program gave him valuable research experience helping better prepare him for his engineering education and career moving forward.

For more information on EDM, check out our feature EDM 101: Electric Discharge Machining Basics.


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