For this Throwback Thursday, we wanted to take a look back at the winning Capstone Design Project from the Fall 2020 Expo made by DIY Engineering. Their project, a Retrofit Cantilever CNC Plasma Cutter, was sponsored by Tab and Slot, which is the company the team drew inspiration from to create their design. Today, we interviewed Zachary Shear, a team member and a 2020 graduate of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. The rest of the team included Aidan McGannon, Max Zegers, Ryan Grigsby, and Shane Walker.
Q: Could you give us a brief description of your project for those who may not know about it?
A: Our capstone project was to develop a removable CNC plasma cutter attachment for a line of welding tables currently being sold by our industry sponsor Tab and Slot.
Q: Where did you first draw inspiration for the idea of the fabCutter for your Capstone Design Project?
A: We drew inspiration for our design from the existing Tab and Slot line of products. It was important to us that the design was consistent with the other Tab and Slot products and capable of being manufactured in house. These two factors inspired us to use Tab and Slot’s method for creating three dimensional structures out of sheet metal components that are easy to manufacture using their laser cutting capabilities.
Q: What was the design process like and how did you and your teammates come together to finish your project?
A: We utilized an iterative design process to come up with the overall concept for the fabCutter. In the beginning we focused on understanding the existing technology and any constraints we had to work around. Then team members focused on different aspects of the design to ensure that no component was overlooked. In the end, we were very lucky to have access to a shop facility outside of Georgia Tech thanks to Ryan Grigsby. Access to the shop space made it possible for the team to build a prototype and learn things that were missed while virtually developing our product.
Q: What were some of the problems that you faced along the way and how did you overcome those obstacles?
A: The two most difficult problems we faced were the distance from our sponsor and COVID-19 limiting our access to campus resources and our ability to meet with each other in person. Tab and Slot is located in Isanti, MN. All the components they sent us had to be shipped which sometimes resulted in delays that limited the amount of time we had to work. The problem of access to resources was solved by Ryan who was able to secure us access to the shop at his work where we could meet with each other in person.
Q: How did it feel to present your project virtually during this pandemic?
A: Virtually presenting our project had both benefits and drawbacks. The virtual platform allowed us to create a video which streamlined the presentation process. However, when we were speaking or answering questions the virtual platform made it hard to interact with judges and other people watching the presentation. As with everything else during the pandemic, the capstone teams were forced to adapt and develop new skills. Virtually presenting the project was difficult for me, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to practice that while still in school.
Q: What do you think made your team successful in creating a product that can help small and large metal shops?
A: We focused on making a product that would work for the intended customer. Businesses of that size have a lot of considerations other than equipment capabilities when purchasing a new machine. Our sponsor helped us to understand what the potential customers would be considering so we could take a wholistic approach to designing the fabCutter.
Q: Do you have any advice for future teams?
A: I’d recommend that future capstone teams take the time early in the semester to really understand the scope of their project. Many teams, including ours, were forced to limit the scope of the project toward the end of the semester to have a finished product. If you can start the semester with an achievable project scope you will have significantly more time to spend developing the final project and end up with a better result.