As an engineering student, you get used to solving textbook problems. It is a refreshing change of pace when you work on a project that utilizes those problem solving skills in a real world situation. I was recently tasked with designing a solution to retrofit a laser measurement device to one of the operations here at the Indium Corporation Business Park Drive facility in Utica, NY. The engineer overseeing this project is Mike Campbell, who was actually an Indium Corporation intern last summer! It is cool to work with someone who was in my shoes only a short time ago.
Just as in a typical engineering textbook problem, I had specifications, limitations, and other constraints to base my design around. In this particular situation, the mounting solution had to be designed around where the material was being fed through. In order to minimize any interruptions to the manufacturing process, modifications had to be as unobtrusive as possible. Another constraint was that we already have a laser measurement device on hand that we wanted to use, so the mount would have to be made to fit that particular model. Thankfully, the company that produces it provides CAD files on their website, making it easy to find important dimensions and mounting hole locations. In a manufacturing operation, an important consideration to make is how much time does the operator have to take to set up a piece of equipment, and how might that affect the accuracy of readings between operators. Therefore, if you can eliminate these possibilities in your design, then you will have good repeatability in your readings. My original design has provisions for adjustment, which could allow for the measurement device to come out of alignment. With a laser measurement device, it is imperative that the material you are measuring is aligned properly with the beam for accurate results.
Once I had my initial design finished, Mike helped me organize a design review with some senior engineers. We discussed shortcomings of the design and how to overcome them. With their useful insight, it was determined that, if the measurement device was mounted in a different location it would produce much more repeatable readings and be less likely to come out of alignment.
The design review was a great learning experience that demonstrated the importance of having multiple vantage points when looking at a problem.