3D printing plane parts

3D printing has become much more popular in the engineering world in recent years. Some reasons for this are that it is much cheaper than it used to be and it can make very complicated shapes that would be impossible to make using normal manufacturing methods. Lehigh understands this trend and they have, in Wilbur Powerhouse, many 3D printers available so that students can get experience using this technology. However, because of the large volume of people wanting to print stuff they have a rule that the printing must be done for an academic reason.

For a while now I have been wanting to use these 3D printers but yet I have not had a class or any reason to use them. However, just a few days ago, the graduate student I work for asked if I could use them to print models of the air vehicle we are working on. He needed them to conduct wind tunnel tests of the design. After I said yes, he showed me some of the basics for how to use the machines. After some trial and error, mostly error, I finally got the 3D printed parts he wanted. Below are some pictures of the parts and of the machine I used to print them. Once I got the hang of the machines I enjoyed making them and I look forward to using the machines again.

IMG_1436 IMG_1437 IMG_1441


Practice plane motor mount built

For those of you who have not been following what I have been doing, here is a quick recap. When I came back from Pacing Break I found out that some people tried to fly the practice airplane. However, it was a windy day and consequently they crashed it and broke the motor mount. Since I could not get just the motor mount without having to buy a whole new plane, I had to create a new one. So, I went into Solidworks (a 3D drawing program) and created a model of it. This is where I left off on my last post.

Before Thanksgiving break, I sent the material with which to make the mount (top left picture) and the computer drawings for the parts to the laser cutting staff. They cut them out and on Monday I went in and got them (top right).

IMG_1320 IMG_1358

I spent a few hours putting it all together and gluing it. This is the result.

IMG_1364 IMG_1365

Finally the plane is fixed and ready to fly again.

Switch plane refit

Over pacing break some people took the trainer aircraft out and tried to fly it. However, it was a windy day and they crashed it. During the crash the motor mount broke so now it is my job to fix it. Below is a picture of the broken motor mount.

broken motor mount

We noticed that every time the plane crashes it breaks the main motor mount first. We can not buy that section of the plane separately so I was given the task to make a new one so that we could fix it every time it breaks. I spent quite a while on it and was eventually able to come up with this model for it (shown below).

Picture of motor mount2


Right now the motor mount is just a Solidworks file but we are going to order the material soon and we hope to have the individual parts made from here at Lehigh. Once we have the individual parts, we can put the mount together. I will try to post a photo of the final mount in physical form when we get it done.

Gun Launched Survalance UAV Model

Yesterday I was given the task to cut out, by hand, 2 models of the UAV for my work-study project. I had to cut them out by hand because the other machine tool that was tried, a water jet, wrecked the material the models are made out of. This is because the material is foam with paper glued on either side. The water jet melted the glue, causing the paper to separate. The paper is needed to help with the structural strength. So, I was given the job. It took a while but I got it done.

Today I went back into the lab and, using wood glue and toothpicks, I put together one of the models.

Below are pictures of the individual foam pieces and then them put together.

IMG_1270 IMG_1271

IMG_1273 IMG_1272

New Work-study Job

A few weeks ago I changed my work-study job to something a little bit closer related to my major and what I would like to do in the future. It is a position in which I am working with one of Professor Harts, whom I have talked a lot about, graduate students. What he is doing is making a gun launched areal surveillance drone for Keystone Automation. Right now, as a junior, I do not have a lot of knowledge of machine tools and of Solidworks, a 3D design software, to be of much help. However, the graduate student that I am working for is having me do odd jobs and is teaching me how to use machines.

The second week of class he had me make one working trainer aircraft from two broken ones. I did this so that he can use it to practice flying without using the drone. Below are some pictures of the trainer. Now if you notice, the wings are not attached. There is a screw that allows them to be easily swapped out so I did not put them on.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

Two weeks ago he had me learn Solidworks so that I can help in modeling things. Last week, he showed me how to use the lathe. He needed some screws made so he figured it would be a good opportunity for me to learn.

I am very happy that I have found this new work-study job. I can now start using my hands and start building things.

Trip to the Atlantic City Airport

Yesterday Professor Hart took some of the Mechanical Engineers on an all day tour of the Atlantic City Airport in New Jersey. We left at 7:35am and got back at 6:50pm (part of that time was spent in traffic).

While we were there we got to tour one of the hangers of the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard. This unit flies the F16C Fighting Falcon and is tasked with the air defense for this part of the country. In the hanger we visited we were able to see 4 F16s. Now we were not allowed to take pictures of the control panels in the plane (for security reasons) but we could take photos of the outside of it. So here is one photo I took.



Another facility we were able to see is a FAA test facility were they stick new devices for testing into aircraft, fly the aircraft and test how the new devices work. They have many aircraft there for different altitudes and speeds of testing. They not only test aircraft but also helicopters too. Here are some of the airplanes and the helicopter that we saw.

FAA small prop plane FAA jet plane nose FAA jet plane body FAA big prop plane FAA Helicopter


After we visited that test facility we went and saw the Air Station Atlantic City which is home to a coast guard helicopter squadron. This squadron is tasked with protecting the United States coast all the way from Connecticut to Virgina. Also they are tasked with protection of the United States Capital. They fly the MH-65D Dolphin Helicopter which has a crew of 2 pilots, a flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer. Here is a picture of one of their helicopters landing.

Coast Guard Helicopter


One of the final places that we went to go and see was the National Airport Pavement Test Facility. In this facility they have a huge machine that rides on train tracks and uses pistons to push aircraft tires into pavement and concrete with a total force of over 1 million pounds. The reason that they do this is to test whether current airport runways are able to take the weight of an aircraft rolling along the runway. This machine will go back and forth along the “runway” to simulate the wear and tear that an airport would experience over many years. When we visited it they were in the process of putting in the pavement and concrete so we could go up to the machine. Here are some pictures of it:

Runway Testing Machine Runway Testing Machine closeup

This was a very fun trip and I hope to go on it again next year.

Additions to the Packard Lab Lobby

Ever since they opened up the new section of Packard Lab lobby (the glass room on the right as you walk in) the shelves and the back case has been empty. Well now they are filled with pieces from throughout Lehigh University Engineering History. I will give a brief description of some of them.

fish skateboard

This is a picture of a skateboard that was built by a company founded by Mechanical Engineers from Lehigh University and it is made out of fishing pollution.

aircraft wing

This is a a piece of a wing that was designed and built here at Lehigh University. It is part of a carbon fiber aircraft that is designed to take energy from the jet stream and to fly indefinitely.

Books2 books1


circuit chips

These are circuit wafers in which Lehigh is trying to take the rigid glass technology that enables cell phones, tv’s, and MP3s and move it flexible metal foils.

drafting tools

These are drafting tools used by Lehigh Universities first PhD (Joseph Richards class of 1886).

hip replacements

These are titanium hip replacements built by Dynamet Inc.

PC Rossin

This is a biography of Peter C. Rossin whom the Lehigh University College of Engineering is named after.

sliderule2 sliderule1

These are pictures of a slide rule used at Lehigh University circa 1940.

Tau Beta Pi

These are plaques certifying Lehigh University as the Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi. An international engineering honors fraternity that has their symbol as the bent (as seen below).