The Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette recently held an open house for the new Metal Forming Lab housed in Rougeou Hall.

University of Louisiana Mechanical EngineeringDr. William Emblom, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering who is developing the lab, says that the equipment that has been installed will provide students, researchers, and members of industry opportunities to investigate different types of metal forming. Undergraduate students will now be able to learn about forging, extrusion, and other typical sheet metal forming processes used in industry. Graduate students will be able to concentrate on developing new technologies such as better methods of manufacturing fuel cells and new methods of making cars from lighter materials such as advanced high strength steels, magnesium allows, and aluminum alloys, all of which are harder to use than conventional automotive steels.

Dr. Emblom credits a team of seniors from the mechanical engineering department who worked on the lab as part of their course work. He says, “Aaron Artigue, Mike Louviere, Jared Hernandez, Jeremy Sommers, Nick Guidry, and Rebecca Senette worked on the lab during the Spring Semester in order to get the equipment up and running. They did a wonderful job.” Their problem was open ended with only the end result defined. They had to get two pieces of equipment up and running, and perform tests with them. The students also had to design an enclosure for a hydraulic pump that would cut down noise in the lab, perform a thermal analysis of the pump with and without the enclosure, and design cooling systems for the pump once the enclosure was built and installed so that the hydraulic pump would not overheat during heavy use.

Richard Jones, a graduate student, has been working on a meso- and micro-scale hydroforming facility for the lab. The goal of his efforts is to determine the material properties of very thin stainless steel sheet metal. He is working with 0.2. millimeter thick sheet metal with the goal of maximizing the ability of the sheet to form at very small scales. Dr. Emblom is excited about the work Richard is doing because it will be instrumental for developing improved fuel cell manufacturing capabilities.

Dr. Emblom states, “We are already putting the equipment to use and in the Fall I will be teaching a course to seniors and graduate students on the theory and applications of various types of metal forming processes. In the spring of 2011, I will be conducting a workshop for members of industry and the educational community. It is my goal to make this equipment a resource for the University and the community so that our engineers, technicians, and industrial partners in the oil, gas, and manufacturing sectors can explore alternative manufacturing methods to those currently used.”

Dr. Emblom also gratefully acknowledges the support of the Louisiana Board of Regents, for awarding him the grant that enabled him to acquire the equipment. “I wish to thank the Louisiana Board of Regents for funding the grant that enabled me to purchase the equipment for the Metal Forming Laboratory. With the funds they provided I have been able to purchase a 60-ton hydraulic press with modern controls, a dome tester built by MTS used to study the mechanics of sheet metal forming, an MTS hydraulic pump, and a 125 ton press that has been specially modified so that it can be used to develop improved methods of sheet metal forming for automobiles.”

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