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Roane State mechatronics work with CoorsTek on real-world project

Roane State Mechatronics students Hunter Cross, left, and Chris Phillips work on a device that’s now being tested for use by CoorsTek, an Oak Ridge industry.
Mechatronics students at Roane State Community College teamed up with an Oak Ridge company to improve its production system.

The work was done for CoorsTek, located in Commerce Park in Oak Ridge. CoorsTek manufactures ceramic components used in many different fields, including the medical industry, semiconductors, automotive, aerospace, and defense. The Oak Ridge branch makes ceramic products used in the semiconductor industry.

High purity ceramic powder is first pressed into a variety of shapes. The compressed powder is then sintered, or fired, at high temperatures to produce a dense, durable substrate. The fired substrate is then machined to final customer requirements using diamond tooling. It is imperative that the powder “remain clean throughout this process,” said Gordon Williams, director of the mechatronics program.

The powder is expensive, and too much of it had been ending up on the factory floor instead of in a hopper, rendering it unusable, Williams said. Drew Stephens, a member of the first mechatronics graduating class in May 2017, designed a machine that would dump the powder from 55-gallon drums into a waiting pressing sack while curtailing spills.

Two mechatronics students in the latest graduating class, Hunter Cross and Chris Phillips, then designed and installed a hydraulic system and operating controls for the machine as their capstone project.

The new arrangement is undergoing testing, said Karen Hudson, engineering manager at CoorsTek and a member of the Roane State Advisory Council. The electrical component is being altered to bring it up to code, she said.

Once the system is fully debugged, “We’ll duplicate its design throughout the plant and possibly other facilities within CoorsTek,” Hudson said.

“It’s a collaboration between industry and education to solve a real-world problem,” Williams said. “This partnership will benefit both the company and the school in providing real-world projects to new graduates,” Hudson said. CoorsTek is the global leader in technical ceramics. With over 50 locations worldwide, the company manufactures advanced ceramic components for virtually every industry. Mechatronics is a technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering. Program graduates often find jobs programing, troubleshooting, and operating industrial machinery.

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