First CTD projects: more efficient shipping, ultrasonic shot peening

Created on: August 17, 2012

What is the most cost-effective way to load a shipping container? How can you make a piece of metal stronger using less energy?

The founding members of the Purdue’s Center for Technology Development (CTD) have asked its faculty researchers to address these questions over a one-year period. The two projects are the first for the center, which was launched in January 2012.

Henry Zhang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology and co-director of the center, will tackle the shipping question. Using mathematical modeling and the principles of 2D or 3D topology and origami, Zhang will work to create a methodology that can help plan efficient loading of a standard container.

Manufacturers must think about a wide range of issues when they ship their products, large or small. They will worry about weight distribution, stability, fluids, electrical connections and whether it can be disassembled and reassembled easily. They must also take into account shipping regulations and custom requirements.

“Once you determine the distinct pieces, then you can use the mathematical model to reconfigure their positions to best fit in a predefined space,” said Vahid Motevalli, founding director of the center. Once the methodology has been determined, Zhang will work to make it general enough to be applicable to a variety of industries.

Zhang will be assisted by a graduate student and will use the project in his undergraduate senior design course.

The second project, undertaken by Qingyou Han, professor of mechanical engineering technology, will focus on using ultrasonic waves to propel metal balls (shots) to create a nanostructure to strengthen the surface of a metal part. The process is called ultrasonic shot peening.

“This process is more precise and uses less energy,” Motevalli said. “You end up obtaining more controlled changes in material characteristics with less energy and in less time.”

Current practice requires that an entire piece be peened with steel balls to change the strength of the metal and to introduce residual stresses at the surface of the workpiece. Ultrasonic peening would allow for more focused peening and produce nanostructure at the surface of the workpiece.  The nanostructure allows heat treating to be carried out at much lower temperatures and much shorter time period.

The projects were chosen by the founding industry members of the center.

“They look at potential topics and problems that benefit all of the partners,” Motevalli said. “Each of them can propose topics, as can the center faculty and researchers.”

Founding members of the center are American Axle and Manufacturing, Eaton Corporation and John Deere.