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Rensselaer mechanical engineers win first place at ASME student manufacturing design competition
Date:11/17/2010

of molds used in the SET process. Originally from Pikesville, Md., Kuppers received his bachelor's degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and master's degree from Rensselaer, both in mechanical engineering. Kuppers co-chairs the Student Sustainability Task Force at Rensselaer.

Despite their strength and versatility, the potential of advanced composites is limited because the materials are difficult and expensive to produce. The patent-pending SET process put forth by Hoffman and Kuppers replaces the need for autoclaves energy-intensive machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in composites manufacturing.

The SET process holds the potential to trim the manufacturing cost of advanced composites, and widen the playing field of businesses that can afford to research and manufacture these materials. The process involves curing a composite laminate by pressing the material between heated, rubber-lined molds. Heating occurs quickly because the composite is in direct contact with the tool. The shape of the rubber mold half is derived computationally using 3-D computer modeling and simulations.

Overall, the SET process results in up to a 1,000-fold energy savings over an autoclave and eliminates the need for expensive consumable materials that are sent to a landfill after each use. The time required to prepare a composite part for curing in an autoclave is a few hours, while it takes less than 10 minutes to perform the prep on a SET system. The award-winning student innovation adds intellectual value to the age-old manufacturing method, while keeping the process simple enough for implementation in industry. The research is sponsored by Kintz Plastics Inc. in Howes Cave, N.Y., and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

"The ASME Student Manufacturing Design Competition is arguably the most prestigious U.S. competition for undergraduate and graduate students working on manufacturing researc
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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