Local Company Teams with School of Engineering

Students create large prototype for Key Technology

By: Becky St. Clair

The prototype created by two senior engineering students was so large it had to be made in several parts and bolted together. The prototype was a request from a local engineering firm. Photos by Chris Drake.

Justin Lindsay, a 2009 mechanical engineering graduate of Walla Walla University, is a manufacturing engineer for Key Technology in Walla Walla, Wash.  Familiar with the engineering program at the university, when the need arose for a sample part for one of their projects, Lindsay knew just where to go.

The School of Engineering at WWU boasts a variety of state-of-the-art machines and high-tech gadgets that allow students to get real-world experience before they even receive their degrees.  One such piece of technology is the rapid prototyping machine, purchased through the generosity of donors interested in seeing the program grow even more.

“This particular part is in development and we needed to fit check the part to verify the design would fit within one of our existing pieces of equipment,” explains Lindsay.  “Instead of constructing an actual part, which would be time consuming and quite expensive, we decided to have a model made.” 

He decided to approach WWU’s engineering program with a proposal to use the rapid prototype machine that he himself had been able to utilize as a student.  He connected with senior mechanical engineering students Ben Blackley and David Steinweg.

Though Steinweg had seen other students utilize the prototyping machine, he himself had never had the opportunity to use it.  When Lindsay came looking for students to help him with his project, Steinweg got his chance.

“This is actually the biggest object anyone has created with this machine to date,” says Steinweg.  “Because of its size and the assembly required to complete it, it took us two weeks to create the part.”

The process of creating the needed prototype involved Key Technology sending a 3D CAD model to the university.  Blackley and Steinweg used the tools associated with the machine to program the parts for printing.

“Because most of the parts were larger than what could be prototyped at one time in the machine the pieces were broken down into smaller parts,” explains Lindsay.  “Once these parts had dried, bolts were used to complete the final assembly.”

Lindsay feels that due to the success of this project, he can foresee Key Technology utilizing the prototyping capabilities of WWU in future designs.

“It’s a rewarding experience to be able to use the knowledge I have gained here at WWU to work on a real-life project,” says Steinweg.  “I hope that through this project the school of engineering can build relationships with local engineering firms so other students can have similar opportunities to work with and for local companies on needed projects.”

Do you think like an engineer?  Take WWU’s quiz to find out: doyouthinklikeanengineer.com.

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