Eramet Marietta recently made a contribution of $1,500 to the Washington State Foundation as thanks for a Washington State engineering class that fabricated a part to improve their process.

Last fall, Eramet Marietta Inc. (EMI), working with Pickering Associates, began a research initiative to collect operations data aimed at pinpointing furnace inefficiencies. Part of the research included tracking the rate at which electrodes are used up during the process cycles. The system that had long been in place was both time consuming and susceptible to measuring variances.

“The previous way to gather necessary field measurements by our operators required them to climb a ladder and manually take measurements with tape and an indexing rope,” described Frank Vallera, Eramet’s Manager of Engineering & Strategic Projects.

To improve the metallurgical manufacturing company’s process, one of its engineers designed a laser holder.  Because they anticipated several drafts before they had exactly what they needed, they required a quick turn-around for the prototype. An engineer with Pickering Associates suggested they work with WSCC, and connected them with John Burgardt, an instructor in the institution’s Industrial Engineering department.

Burgardt was able to turn the project into a classroom lesson where students were charged with utilizing the college’s rapid prototyping 3D printer to quickly create a sample.  “Eramet was able to immediately try out the different configurations we created and settle on a final design without the extensive setup and tooling time that accompany traditional fabrication methods,” explained Burgardt.

“The results of utilizing the new laser holder helped improve safety for our operators and also improved the quality and reliability of the measurements now recorded by a laser instrument, eliminating the potential for human error,” Vallera concluded.

The funds given by Eramet were placed in the WSCC Foundation’s annual scholarship fund.

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