During the Summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to intern with Nucor Steel at their Kankakee, IL bar mill.
Scrap Cutter Project
One of the major projects I worked on was the prototyping and design of a remotely operated scrap cutting machine. The purpose of this machine was to cut up scrap steel that did not meet ASTM specification and could not be re-graded. Additionally, it was also to be able to reduce ‘cobbles’, a term used to describe bars of steel that did not run through the rolling stands correctly.
Traditionally, “cobbled” material is hand-processed by a teammate using a 6′ oxy-fuel cutting torch.
This is the industry standard for reducing scrap material to a manageable size. However, due to the many hazards involved with this task, Nucor Kankakee was interested in developing a solution that would not require a human to be in such an environment. Four of the summer interns were assigned to develop a solution.
Mitch Wainwright – ME, Missouri S&T (Stress Analysis, Mechanical Design)
Evan Axthelm – MET, Purdue University (Procurement, Mechanical Design)
Daniel Wilson – EE, Purdue University (Electrical Systems Design)
James Zandstra – ME, Missouri S&T (Mechanical Systems Design, 3D Modelling)
First, we constructed a small-scale motorized cutting torch to prove that such a machine was even feasible. This model was fabricated from a broken ‘track-torch’ that we retro-fitted with electric gearmotors.
After proving that scrap steel could be cut efficiently in small-scale, we sought approval from plant management and began planning and designing a full-scale scrap cutting solution.
The machine consists of a wall-mounted i-beam and a floor-mounted crane rail on which the main structure rides. The cutting torch is manipulated further by a series of actuators/joints called the ‘arm’ that rides upon the boom.
My primary responsibilities were the mechanical design and 3D computer modelling of the machine. Using Solidworks, I modeled every mechanical component into appropriately constrained system-assemblies, which I then used to construct a master-assembly. These constraints allowed us to see exactly how each mechanism would function prior to fabrication.
By the end of my internship, our four-man team had assembled a completed mechanical and electrical design with all materials and components quoted. At the conclusion of our internship (8.15.14), we handed these plans off to the plants fabrication team to be constructed.