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MABE Prototyping Lab Established with the Rinehart S. Bright Estate Gift and Department Funds

Haas CNC Lathe machine to be used in MABE Prototyping Lab

Haas CNC Lathe machine being delivered to the PL

This Fall, MABE opened The Rinehart S. Bright Laboratory, which is also known as the MABE Prototyping Laboratory (PL). The PL is an exciting new addition to MABE that will allow faculty and students to design and fabricate components with high degrees of complexity and accuracy not possible before. The PL was initially funded through a generous gift from the Rinehart Sensing Bright (1912-2006) estate.

Bright received his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from UT in 1936. To pay for his education, he worked shoveling coal into dormitory furnaces as well as other side jobs. After graduation, Bright, who was interested in cars, landed a job at Chrysler Corporation where he eventually designed and manufactured automobiles in New Orleans, Indiana and Detroit. Bright worked at the corporation for more than 25 years and retired in 1977 as Vice President of Chrysler. He gave back to the university in many ways such as serving on UT’s Development Council and including UT in his estate plans. In 1974, Bright was awarded the Nathan W. Dougherty Award, the College of Engineering’s most prestigious award.

The vision for the PL is to provide access to modern high quality computer numerically controlled (CNC) manufacturing processes that deliver state of the art fabrication experiences and capabilities. A key emphasis of the new facility is paperless processing where Computer Aided Designs (CAD) are electronically sent to data servers in the PL and will be prepared for fabrication on one of the systems provided. Students and faculty can download the CAD part drawings and three support computers will have the capability to correct drawings and prepare the files that will direct the CNC machines. It is expected the PL will be used by graduate students and faculty working on their research projects, as well as seniors for their capstone design projects. The initial suite of manufacturing systems is:

  • A Haas CNC 4-axis milling machine with a working volume of 50” x 20” x 25”.  This machine will be used to machine larger components.
  • A Haas CNC 5-axis milling machine with a high-speed spindle and working volume of 12” x 10” x 12”.  This milling machine will be used to fabricate smaller and more complex parts with very high accuracy.
  • A Haas CNC Lathe that can turn cylindrical parts within a 16” x 29” volume.
  • A modernized Bridgeport knee milling machine with a CNC controller.  Machine can now be used to produce parts directly from CAD drawings.
  • A Helmel coordinate measuring machine with 3D laser scanner.  This machine can be used to verify part dimensions and to reverse engineer existing components.
  • An OMAX CNC water jet cutting machine. The OMAX can be used to cut complex parts from sheet stock with thicknesses up to six inches. The machine can cut metals, glasses, plastics, etc.
  • A Stratasys 400mc 3D printer.  This machine can print precision 3D parts from a variety of polymer materials and has a working volume of 16” x 14” x 16”.

Depending on funding, future possibilities for the PL include the addition of a 3D metal printer and a CNC electron discharge machining system.

Written By: Jenna E. McVey