The new Mori Seiki milling machine in the WWU School of Engineering was put to good use recently by freshman mechanical engineering major Karina Cole when she milled 1200 nearly identical aluminum brackets for Adventist World Radio (AWR), Guam.
While Cole did the bulk of the work during spring break, the project really began last fall when Rob Frohne, professor of engineering, happened to mention to Ralph Stirling, engineering projects manager, that AWR was building a new antenna, and they needed new parts. As it happens, new parts are what the Mori Seiki does best.
“So we started corresponding with Brook Powers [AWR chief engineer in Guam] and we started drawing,” says Stirling. “I made a part on the manual milling machine to see how long I thought it would take. We would never have been able to make all of these parts with our old machine,” he says. “This is like five years of machining on our old CNC machine.”
The AWR radio station in Guam is the only shortwave station owned by AWR. (AWR leases other shortwave stations.) The station’s antennas span an area the length of a football field and, at 229 feet, the towers are nearly as high. A network of cables is strung between the towers, and the cable ends are then clamped to the towers to create a high-frequency curtain antenna.
This is no namby-pamby antenna system. AWR broadcasts from Guam reach more than 3 billion people in 34 languages across Asia—in countries including China, North Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and more. Shortwave radio signals can travel thousands of miles, reaching listeners in areas that are geographically remote or closed completely to local Christian broadcasts.
High winds on Guam create a lot of wear and tear on that cable network—stretching, grating, slowly scraping away precious bits of pricey metal brackets. When AWR looked at the cost of hiring a machine shop to make all the new brackets they needed, the price was too high. “We can do it for a lot less money,” says Stirling.
So Karina Cole went to work making brackets two at a time on the new Mori Seiki NVX 5080 three-axis vertical machining center that was donated to the School of Engineering by DMG Mori Seiki Corporation. Adam Hansel, ’98 mechanical engineering graduate and chief technology officer for DMG Mori Seiki USA, was instrumental in facilitating what Stirling calls a “fantastically generous donation.” The NVX 5080 is valued at more than $200,000.
By the end of spring break, Cole had packaged up 10 boxes with 120 brackets each and shipped them off to Guam, fulfilling a contract with AWR for 80 hours of labor and extending the reach of WWU engineering students and graduates from College Place across the world.
Posted May 17, 2016