Advanced Mechanical Design Co-Op
Upstart Power Inc. is a startup company focused on Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells. They separated from Protonex Technology Corporation in December 2017 and have been growing ever since. As a co-op at such a young company, I was assigned a wide variety of tasks; I have highlighted some of the more notable projects below.
The company’s laser cutter was unreliably and performing very inadequately. I took it upon myself to diagnose the problem and fix it.
The laser cartridge for the cutter had not been replaced in over 10 years and was the main cause for the cutter’s performance issues. I ordered a new cartridge to replace the old one, and thoroughly cleaned out the cutting bed and ventilation system to ensure it could operate properly. During my testing, the lens also cracked, and I had to replace that as well.
The laser cutter worked much more consistently after troubleshooting it. I typed and printed a maintenance log to keep track of basic maintenance. I also began testing its capabilities and tracking what power and speed settings were required for a variety of new materials we use for fabrication. Finally, I typed up an operating procedure and maintenance procedure for future employees and co-ops to use and ensure the laser cutter continues to operate well.
Some relevant images are shown above!
A significant portion of my time at Upstart was spent designing and modeling parts in SolidWorks. This includes implementing changes per someone else’s instruction, and my own designs based solely on a given task to accomplish.
I designed and manufactured a few iterations of a mount to be cut and bent out of sheet metal. Its purpose is to secure a sulfur filter to the side of a propane tank. I tested different methods based on the filter used, and the types of fittings compatible with said filters. A rendering can be seen in the slideshow above.
Air Flow Manifold:
I designed and 3D printed a simple clam-shell air manifold to be used in our alpha unit. It required two inlets and one outlet, and used press-fit inserts, screws, and epoxy to seal shut. After the first iteration, I also included some locating pegs and holes to ensure I could reliably close it in the correct position before epoxying. A rendering can be seen in the slideshow above.
Burn Chamber Test Stand
We wanted to observe the combustion behavior within a pre-burner chamber for a new design of the fuel cell. I had to design a test setup to safely view the chamber during ignition while maintaining as much of a seal as possible and providing repeatability.
I modeled and manufactured some metal clamps to secure a panel of high-temperature glass with a gasket to form a seal. I then built a test stand using 80/20 rails, so we could rest the burn chamber upright and mount flowmeters to measure gas and air intakes. This setup is shown in the slideshow above.
We were able to repeatedly test the ignition process of the burn chamber. This allowed us to determine where there may be leaks or cold spots in the chamber to inform better future design.
Towards the end of my co-op, I was organizing parts and assembling multiple alpha units. During this process, I took many pictures and wrote down every step to formally document the testing and manufacturing procedures. This required measured and methodical assembly to ensure I captured the crucial aspects of assembling a unit. This documentation was for the sake of future employees co-ops so no one has to unnecessarily cover the same ground as me.
Samples of said documentation can be furnished upon request.