Waikato engineering student creates engraved Multi-tools

Press Release – University of Waikato

Waikato University engineering graduates of 2011 are in for a treat. Mechanical Engineering fourth-year student Mitchel Woodhouse has designed a ‘Multi-tool’ which he will engrave with the words ‘Engineering Graduates of 2011’ using equipment …

3 October, 2011
Waikato engineering student creates engraved Multi-tools
Waikato University engineering graduates of 2011 are in for a treat. Mechanical Engineering fourth-year student Mitchel Woodhouse has designed a ‘Multi-tool’ which he will engrave with the words ‘Engineering Graduates of 2011’ using equipment designed and built as part of his course. The Multi-tools will be given to the graduating engineers at a leaver’s dinner as a memento of their study, courtesy of funding from the University’s Young Engineering Society.

The credit card-sized Multi-tool, which was designed by Woodhouse and outsourced to be laser-cut, can be used to open bottles, unscrew nuts of three sizes and act as a small ruler.

The former Cambridge High School student’s projects, along with projects from other students will be on show this month at the annual Carter Holt Harvey Pulp & Paper Engineering Design Show, held on campus.

“In our final year we must complete a major design project in groups and a research project, which is completed individually,” says Woodhouse.

He has worked with team mate Sam Constable on a design project which has involved designing and building a three axis Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine.

“A basic description of a CNC machine is that it allows something which is designed using computer modelling to be manufactured automatically, such as engraving words or logos onto products.”

Their overall idea was to encourage interest in CNC operating as a career. “Currently there is a shortage of CNC operators and with more and more businesses purchasing these machines, the problem is only going to get worse. If we can make a CNC machine that is affordable for educational facilities such as schools to purchase, this will provide the opportunity for school students to experiment with our machine and will potentially ignite an interest in this field.”

Woodhouse’s individual research stemmed from the design project. “I was looking at the integration of a robot arm to the CNC machine to form a Flexible Manufacturing Cell (FMC). The FMC uses a robot arm to automatically load and unload the CNC machine and my research focuses on communication between the components.

“The CNC can then operate without assistance for a period of time, for example running over night unsupervised, without having to take any breaks. This type of automation is important to New Zealand due to our high labour costs compared to Asia and it also enables a higher quality product to be produced.”

As Woodhouse explained, FMCs have been around for a long time and are used extensively by car manufacturers. Current systems are very expensive and out of reach of most New Zealand businesses.

“My strategy was that if we could simplify the system as much as possible, so that it required minimal specialised knowledge, the cost would be greatly reduced.”

As for the future, he’s “all sorted”, with a place secured in Auckland in the Lion Nathan Breweries graduate programme. “Working at a brewery sounds pretty sweet to me.”

Woodhouse’s research and joint design project will be on show at the Carter Holt Harvey Pulp & Paper Engineering Design Show. The event will be held at the University of Waikato from 18-19 October, 9.00am – 5.00pm, in S Block. During the two days, second, third and fourth-year Engineering students showcase their research projects in the forms of posters, displays and seminars. Topics covered include Chemical & Biological Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Materials and Process Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Software Engineering. The event is the perfect opportunity for both high school students and industry representatives to meet the School of Engineering’s talented students.
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