Penn College student project ‘manufactures’ benefits

Published 11.09.2022

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Jake C. Beatty volunteered for the class project because it sounded “cool.” Turns out, he was right.

The result was an invaluable experience for the manufacturing student at Pennsylvania College of Technology and will benefit those who follow his path.

Beatty, of Grove City, designed a vacuum-form mold that – with the assistance of a tooling company and the Penn College plastics department – resulted in the manufacturing of bed protection covers for milling machines used for practical instruction in the college’s Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center.

Howard W. Troup (left), instructor of automated manufacturing and machining at Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Jake C. Beatty, of Grove City, hold a milling machine bed protection cover that resulted from Beatty’s mold design. Beatty, who is scheduled to graduate in December with associate degrees in automated manufacturing technology & machine tool technology, designed the mold for a project in Troup’s Fixture Design & Fabrication class. An Ohio-based company used Beatty’s design to 3D-print a mold that the Penn College plastics department employed to produce the bed covers for TRAK milling machines in the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I learned a lot. It definitely helped further my education,” said Beatty, who is scheduled to graduate in December with associate degrees in automated manufacturing technology and machine tool technology.

Howard W. Troup, instructor of automated manufacturing & machining, devised the project for his Fixture Design & Fabrication class with two goals in mind: providing a real-world opportunity for student growth and potentially saving the college from ordering $1,500 worth of pre-made bed covers.

The plastic, flat covers protect milling machines’ t-slotted beds from abrasions and collect shavings, chips and other debris when the vertical tool is cutting metal. Existing bed covers didn’t fit the 27 TRAK milling machines purchased during the past few years from TRAK Machine Tools, a Corporate Tomorrow Maker partner of the college.

“I wasn’t surprised Jake volunteered for the project, and I had absolute confidence that he would do well,” Troup said. “I was impressed with his determination and willingness to do whatever it took to make a good finished product.”

Beatty exhibited such qualities long after earning an “A” for both the project and class.

The Dean’s List student spent weeks in lab using Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD – computer-aided design and drafting software applications – to craft a bed cover mold that could be 3D-printed and employed for vacuum forming. The common plastics manufacturing process calls for a thermoplastic sheet to be heated until pliable and then formed – by use of a vacuum – into the shape of a mold.  Once cooled, the part is ejected from the mold and trimmed to size.

New to mold design, Beatty consulted with Christopher J. Gagliano, project manager for Penn College’s Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, and Jack Stafford, lead project manager and business development member for Catalysis Additive Tooling, a leader in 3D-printed tooling technology. The Ohio-based company agreed to 3D-print Beatty’s mold design at no cost to the college, thanks to an established relationship with Gagliano and the PIRC.

Beatty relied on Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD to design his vacuum-form mold and included a “PCT” insert to showcase the college’s initials.“I would email questions once or twice a week and send revisions of my model design to see if they thought there would be issues with the manufacturing process because I had no idea what that was like,” Beatty recalled. “They were awesome to work with, super helpful and very generous.”

Gagliano and Kirk M. Cantor, professor of plastics & polymer technology, along with a few students, used the college’s MAAC Machinery single-station thermoformer to produce samples from the mold, which included a “PCT” insert to showcase the college’s initials.

The result was more than acceptable. The course was over. The project’s objectives were met. But Beatty wasn’t satisfied.

“The first mold I designed didn’t have enough draft on the vertical surfaces to release the part from the mold once it cooled. This put an excessive amount of stress on the mold and ended up causing small features on the mold to break off,” he explained.

Beatty’s quest for perfection continued on his own time the following semester. The decision to do so was easy. The exacting nature of machining attracted him to the field in the first place.

Since high school, Beatty has worked part time at a weld shop in the Grove City area, advancing from sweeping floors to welding and dabbling in machining. Penn College’s associate degree in metal fabrication technology attracted him because it combines the two skill sets. But after a year, machining won out, and Beatty switched to the automated manufacturing technology and machine tool technology majors.

“Machining gives me more peace of mind,” he said. “I have a print that says a part must be within certain specs. And if it’s not, the part is bad. There’s no questioning if it’s good or bad. In machining, I don’t have to give a part to a customer and say, ‘I hope this fits.’ I can be like, ‘This part is going to fit.’”

The bed covers protect milling machines’ t-slotted beds and collect shavings, chips and other debris when the vertical tool is cutting metal. Eventually, enough bed covers will be produced for all 27 TRAK milling machines the college uses for instructional purposes.After weeks of meticulous revisions, Beatty felt such certitude with his bed cover design since it incorporated 8 degrees of draft on all vertical surfaces, eliminating excess pressure on the mold. He sent the new design to Catalysis Additive Tooling, requesting the 3D-printing of a second mold reflecting his changes.

The company agreed, and a few months later, Beatty’s newfound Penn College plastics connections used the mold to manufacture 26 of the inch-thick black bed covers. Each one measuring 22.1 by 10.7 inches, two covers are needed per milling machine. Additional covers will be made as time allows in the coming weeks.

“It was so cool to see what I saw on my computer screen for so long being used to make real parts,” Beatty said. “Working with the plastics department and Catalysis Additive Tooling was a confidence booster and great learning experience, not only in regard to designing and making the mold but in communicating in a professional environment.”

“I’m very proud of Jake. He went above and beyond for his project,” Troup said. “He benefited from the experience, and the machining lab will benefit from the result. We should be able to use the bed covers for decades.”

Beatty credits the project and his hands-on education under the direction of teachers with real-world experience for helping him secure a full-time position prior to graduation. Beginning in January, he’ll be designing and manufacturing diesel engine components for a company in Crawford County.

Just like his project, it sounds “cool."

For information on Penn College’s manufacturing-related degrees and other majors offered by the School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

The college is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.