Thanks to a gift from Al J. Hirshberg ’82, ’83 and his wife, Suzy ’84, the machine shop in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen is even better equipped for students working on design projects.
“These machines are state-of-the-art. When they’re building a prototype, the students will get a chance to use the same kind of tools they’re using in industry,” said Joe Gesenhues, the OEDK’s machine shop manager.
Already installed in the machine shop is a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) plasma cutting table, used for cutting, routing and engraving metal. A plasma cutter sends pressurized gas through a small channel fitted with a negatively charged electrode. When the electrode is charged and the tip of the nozzle touches metal, the connection creates a circuit. The resulting spark heats the pressurized gas until it reaches the plasma state at temperatures as high as 25,000 degrees F.
“They tell us we can go through a one-inch steel plate like nothing. We haven’t tried that yet,” Gesenhues said.
Awaiting installation is a three-axis cutter, or milling machine, which can manufacture parts out of metal or other materials. The new equipment supplements the lathes, drill presses, vertical mills, band saw, grinders, buffers, and compressed air and specialty tools already in use in the machine shop.
Hirshberg is executive vice president of technology and projects at ConocoPhillips with 28 years of experience in the oil and natural gas industry. He earned B.S. and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice. Suzy Hirshberg earned a B.A. in economics from Rice.
The machines were set up by Danny Blacker, the OEDK’s engineering design technician.
-- Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications
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