Undergraduate MSE students from UAB recently won first place in the AFS-Birmingham student casting competition for their successful development of a centrifical casting apparatus. Led by Kerry Bisset and Christoper Graves, other students who participated in the project were Ranae Wright, Emily Shedlarski, Doug Pecot, Adam Forbes, Raymond Solomon, William Warner, Michael Wei, Leam Scullin, with additional support from graduate students Elis Rivera, Alex Noble, Rhiannon Bragg, and Sid Biswas.
The students initially set out to create a decorative model rocket, using centrifugal forces to form the hollow body tube of the rocket. They consulted experts in centrifugal casting and designed a set-up based on a budget of about $300. Kendell Electronics kindly donated a variable frequency drive to control the RPM of the mold. Casting simulation software MAGMAsoft was used to determine variables like solidification time, pour weight, and superheat needed. After the computational work was completed, the next step in the project was to build the centrifugal casting machine. As this project grew into the building stage, the safety of the students was the highest priority. People involved in the build were required to wear safety gear. Experts in centrifugal casting were brought in to make sure the setup was safe. Observers to the pour were kept a minimum safe distance and kill switches were used on the electronics to ensure control.
The apparatus was built and tested over the course of three months. Initial trials were made with a PVC mold and wax, before moving to higher-melting-temperature zinc cast in a steel mold. By the fourth try, a pipe 16 inches long with a relatively uniform wall thickness of 1/8 inch was created by spinning the mold at 3300 RPM. The students plan to continue refining the casting machine so that it can be used for classroom demonstrations and research.
UAB's second student team of Kerry Bisset and Christopher Graves also won second place in the competition for their development of a cast bi-metal coin.