Pittsburgh -- When Microsonic Inc., a small manufacturer in Ambridge, Pa., needed a way to keep up with its customers’ demand, they knew just where to turn – Robert Morris University.
Microsonic, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of custom ear molds for hearing aids and for non-amplified applications, was looking to improve the production process for the specially shaped plastic tubes it uses to connect hearing aids to the ear molds. The process, which was mostly done by hand, was both tedious and time-consuming, and it made it impossible for the company’s workers to meet the growing needs of its customers.
Ozden Uslu ’07, Microsonic technical director and a graduate of RMU’s Master of Science in Engineering Management program, contacted engineering professor Murat Tiryakioglu, and explained the problem. Back in 2007, when Uslu was still a graduate student, he had worked with Mircosonic in conjunction with RMU’s Center for Applied Research in Engineering and Science to help the manufacturer implement a new rapid prototyping technique designed by students.
| Uslu invited Tiryakioglu and several students from his Manufacturing Operations course to Microsonic to review the process and see if they could come up with a way of increasing capacity while, at the same time, reducing the cost. Over a period of about eight weeks, the students developed a prototype design for a 50-tine tubing carousel to simplify and accelerate the production of the ear mold tubes. They tested the new design on campus before demonstrating it on-site at Microsonic.
“The design our students came up with boosts Microsonic’s production rate greatly,” said Tiryakioglu, who adds that the new workstation could increase the capacity up to 150 percent, all at a cost of around $600.
Recently, with the help of Enzo Grilli, ’03, M’05, RMU adjunct engineering professor, engineering students collaborated with Microsonic on two more industrial engineering design projects.
The first involved tube cutting – a labor-intensive, dangerous, automated process. The students made suggestions for modifying the equipment at a minimal cost, and now the process is much safer and more efficient.
The second involved Microsonic’s packaging process. After identifying the problem, the students recommended that the company keep its current equipment and just modify a few parts. As a result, what had been a highly manual process is now 80 percent automated and much more efficient, all for little added cost to Microsonic.
“For RMU and Microsonic to provide this type of experience and education to students is invaluable,” said Grilli. “The student is able to gain a solid understanding of how a project goes from an idea to a reality in the business place, while encompassing all facets of their education, not just the engineering.”
“RMU’s approach to give students hands-on experience produces real-world engineers who are able to recognize and solve problems,” added Uslu. “At RMU, they’re not just learning, they’re doing.”