If You Dream It, the Machine Shop Can Build It

November 1, 2013
WSE Machine Shop equipment is used to produce a piece of equipment of for Noah Cowan's LIMBS lab.

In the Advanced Manufacturing Lab, 3-D printers were used to fabricate nine parts for a piece of equipment for Noah Cowan’s LIMBS Lab.

You can hear the whizzing, banging, clanking, and zooming of the Whiting School of Engineering Machine Shop from hundreds of feet away. It is here in the Wyman Park Building, in five separate workshops, that Rich Middlestadt oversees a revamped operation capable of producing everything from the simplest parts for an undergraduate design project to the most sophisticated elements necessary for advanced scientific research.

“We’ve been a little busy,” says Middlestadt, the manufacturing manager charged with consolidating 11 workspaces across the Homewood campus, as he opens the door to the Student Machine Shop. Inside, senior biomedical engineering major Sean Bailey, a student machinist wearing protective eye gear and a dark jumpsuit, is teaching undergraduate mechanical engineering students about the thickness of metals. As the lathe whirls, curls of metal drop to the floor like shiny pencil shavings.

The Whiting School of Engineering spent roughly $1 million to upgrade the machine shops over the summer, adding more than $500,00 in equipment that includes a $120,000 Rapid Prototype Machine (aka 3-D printer) with support equipment and a $100,000 Wire EDM Machine that, as Middlestadt puts it, “uses electricity to cut metal like butter.” Now students can be trained on the most advanced equipment and learn the economics of using materials, time, and tools efficiently to achieve design purposes. Postdocs and researchers can order parts from the Professional Machine Shop across the hall, or from the Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory upstairs. These jobs are provided on a fee-per-service scale.

Upstairs in the Advanced Manufacturing Lab, Niel Leon, the design consultant, is working on an even more sophisticated machine to turn around a job for postdocs working in Professor Noah Cowan’s Locomotion in Mechanical and Biological System laboratory.

Excerpt from the JHU Gazette. Read more >

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