Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 2020 Graduating Class! 

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) is the largest in the Swanson School of Engineering in terms of students and faculty. All of our programs are ABET-accredited. The Department's core strengths include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Design
  • Materials for Extreme Conditions
  • Soft Matter Biomechanics
  • Computational and Data-Enabled Engineering
  • Cyber-Physical Systems and Security
  • Nuclear and other Sustainable Energies
  • Quantitative and In Situ Materials Characterization

MEMS faculty are not only world-renowned academicians, but accessible teachers who seek to inspire and encourage their students to succeed.  

The Department also has access to more than 20 laboratory facilities that enhance the learning process through first-rate technology and hands-on experience.

Each year, the Department graduates approximately 90 mechanical and materials science engineers, with nearly 100% placed in excellent careers with industry and research facilities around the globe.


MEMS Faculty Member is Lead Author on Quantum Computing Article Published by NASA


Dr. Peyman Givi, mechanical engineering Distinguished Professor, is the lead author on a recently published National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Technical Memorandum (TM).  The TM explains how quantum computers can be utilized for computational modeling and simulations. It is theorized that quantum computers will be able to conduct calculations in seconds for problems that take the current (classical) world’s largest supercomputers months to compute.  The TM details the current state of progress in quantum computing technology and how NASA and the aerospace community could potentially use this technology to perform large scale computations. Givi said he is honored to be a co-author on such an important report, noting that his collaborators are among the world’s leading researchers in quantum physics and computational fluid dynamics. He is excited to continue research in this area, stating that “the potential power of quantum computers in near-future computations is mind blowing.” The authors have been asked to publish this report as a Invited Article in the AIAA Journal.
Meagan Lenze

Start Your Engines! And Don’t Neglect Your Vehicle

Covid-19, MEMS, Student Profiles

The stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic have left many personal vehicles unattended in garages or parked along the side of the road. If you don’t want to be among the growing number of customers calling roadside assistance services, take heed of some advice from the Swanson School of Engineering’s Panther Racing student group. “Typically in vehicles, the first thing to fail during a period of unuse is the battery,” explained Bryce Merrill, a rising senior mechanical engineering student and executive director of Panther Racing (Pitt FSAE). “Batteries will lose charge over time regardless, but any small electrical draw on the battery will cause this to happen faster.” He recommends periodically driving your car to charge the battery or installing a trickle charger to top off the battery when it gets too low. “Starting your car occasionally and driving around the block or so is good for a few other reasons as well,” said Merrill. “It gives all the moving components a chance to get lubricated, gets the fluids flowing, and will remove corrosion from your brake rotors.” Word to the wise for folks in areas, like Pittsburgh, where the temperature can fluctuate more than twenty degrees in one day: check your tire pressure, too. “It is also important to check your tire pressure occasionally as they will slowly leak air and can develop flat spots if they sit in the same spot and the pressure drops too much,” said Merrill. These failures, however, aren't what sidelined their student-designed-and-built formula race car. Rather, it was the campus closure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, Panther Racing has been forced to put the completion of PR-032, this year's race car, on hold due to restrictions on group gatherings and the closing of the University. “This year's FSAE in-person competitions have been migrated to a virtual competition that will occur in early June,” said Merrill. “The team has stayed busy preparing for this virtual competition, planning for next year's car, and has taken this time to focus on education and knowledge transfer.” The group, like many others, has stayed connected through Zoom. A Panther Racing alumnus has held seminars about engine tuning, and they plan to hold additional seminars with other team alumni. “It is extremely disappointing to all of us to not have the opportunity to finish what we have worked so hard for all year, but we are taking this as a learning opportunity to design and manufacture a better car next year,” he said. “We will soon begin the design process for PR-033 remotely, to stay on schedule to complete it by this time next year. We also hope to finish PR-032 in time to compete at our annual Pittsburgh Shootout on August 1st at Pittsburgh International Raceway.” # # #


Working Through Crisis

All SSoE News, Covid-19, MEMS, Student Profiles

COVID-19 has left the University and world at large in an unprecedented situation. This situation introduced many new challenges for all, including how to adapt classes such as Senior Design, which is largely based on teamwork, to a remote setting. In addition to the normal challenges and problem solving nature of a given course, the stay-at-home order created an added challenge for this semester’s Senior Design teams; how to reclaim a project in the middle of the semester when you are no longer able to come to campus. One team was able to engineer a creative solution.  The team’s sponsor is Abram’s Nation. They produce hospital bed equipment, and due to their essential status, they are still open for business during this time.  Abram’s Nation is a long-time partner and friend of the University of Pittsburgh, particularly the Swanson School of Engineering. Abram’s Nation produces a product called The Safety Sleeper®.  It is a fully enclosed bed system for children and adults with special needs for daily and travel use.  The Safety Sleeper aims to keep those with mental illnesses such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia safe with a fully enclosed system that attaches to a bed to keep the user contained at night to prevent bodily harm and injury. The current model of The Safety Sleeper is effective for regular mattresses and has a rigid frame. This frame imposes limitations on where the current design can be used. In 2019, Abram’s Nation completed an internal design and process overhaul of their main product lines. It was here the company realized there was a need to create a device compatible with an articulating base bed. Craig Van Korlaar, Director of Operations at Abram’s Nation was the design team’s point of contact.  He said, “We hope to bring an articulating model to market in late 2020/early 2021, but also knew that we did not have the skills or capacity to accomplish the frame design on our own. By once again partnering with Pitt on the frame, we have been able to stay on track with this timeline.” 3D model of the team’s design. The senior design team’s original goal was to expand on the current model of The Safety Sleeper to create a product capable of interfacing with hospital and facility beds. The results were planned to be a full-scale prototype, fitting the dimensions of the bed and to be able to handle the articulation of the bed without sacrificing the integrity of The Safety Sleeper enclosure. Early into the project, the team ran into its first challenge. Due to legal issues, the team was unable to see a hospital bed and acquire the necessary measurements until five weeks into the semester. So instead, the team worked from an articulating bed frame supplied by Abram’s Nation located at the company’s manufacturing facility. Team coordinator and ME major, Matthew Warner explains, “This bed-frame is meant for households, so it has very little resemblance to a hospital bed. It does, however, possess a level of articulation similar to that of a hospital bed, so our design will serve as a basis for the final product meant to integrate with a hospital bed.” Pre-shutdown, Van Korlaar and his colleagues at Abram’s Nation were very pleased with the design team’s progress. They were at the stage of testing their initial prototype. While this frame prototype worked as intended, it became clear there were issues with the enclosure's ability to adapt to the different positions that placed excess forces on the frame. While these weak points had been anticipated and were planned to be addressed in the revised model, there was enough concern to warrant a complete redesign. This led the team to pivot to an alternative design using a fixed frame surrounding an independently articulating platform.  Van Korlaar said, “This pivot is a better solution in the long run as it addresses all of the enclosure issues we encountered and allows the articulating platform to hold all the occupant's weight instead of some of it transferring to the frame itself.” The team and Craig Von Korlaar discussing their project over Zoom. Then, over spring break, the team faced its second major challenge when the announcement came from the University that facilities were shutting down and students were advised not to return to campus. Warner said his team’s in-person meetings transitioned to online Zoom meetings, which was sufficient for some aspects of the project, but became an issue when brainstorming ideas for the new design. Warner made a rough 3D model of the intended design using Paint 3D. Through screen sharing, the team then used the annotation tools on Zoom to draw on the model to better convey ideas. Prior to spring break, the design team was using the Swanson Center for Product Innovation (SCPI) to fabricate custom parts for their design and had access to Abram’s Nation production facility. Since Abram’s Nation manufactures their current products internally, they would cut the sections of aluminum tubing the team needed in-house using schematics the team provided the company with. Matt Warner creating parts for the new Safety Sleeper design at home. Luckily, Warner’s father has a machine shop at home with a 3D printer. So, Warner began producing custom parts for the new design at home and shipping them to Abram’s Nation, who are currently operating with a skeleton crew. The team at Abram’s Nation is, “...able to cut the sections of tubing that we require, as well as assemble and test the new physical prototype themselves with instructions from our group” says Warner. As a side note, Abram’s Nation has textile equipment and material that they use to make the fabric and mesh enclosures on their current product, so with some retooling they have been producing face masks for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) during the pandemic. The design team is disappointed there will not be a Senior Design Expo this year to present their work.  However, learning to overcome the various challenges they faced proved to be a valuable experience. Warner says, “One of the biggest learning points from this experience for me was that it really showed just how valuable in-person communication can be while brainstorming ideas. While it is very much possible to convey these ideas through an online, digital medium, nothing beats a pen and paper or a marker and a whiteboard.” Dr. David Schmidt, the Senior Design course instructor, notes, “The team’s effort and initiative exemplifies the spirit of ownership students develop during their capstone experience.” Warner and Van Korlaar remained in daily contact with one another throughout the project, with updates on design and fabrication processes and discussing key decisions for the project. Despite some initial skepticism about the ability to complete the project, the team remained dedicated to their goals. The team is grateful to Abram’s Nation for remaining a professional partner despite the ongoing changes within their company, and for maintaining contact and providing helpful input and feedback when needed. Likewise, Van Korlaar speaks very highly of Warner and the rest of the team, noting the initiative and work ethic of the group despite the challenges they have faced. He says, “I was blown away with the final delivery package, which was of higher quality and thoroughness than what I've seen from some established engineering firms.” Van Korlaar is already looking forward to partnering with another group of Pitt students this fall to tackle their next project.
Meagan Lenze

MEMS Faculty Member Elected to Canadian Academy of Engineering Fellows


Scott Mao, the John A. Swanson Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, was recently elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE). Mao is one of 50 highly accomplished individuals selected from a competitive nomination and selection process this year and was chosen in recognition of his outstanding contributions in fracture and mechanical behavior of materials, leading to significant progress and breakthroughs in the damage evaluation of engineering structures. He was nominated by Dr. David S. Wilkinson, Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. An induction dinner for new fellows is typically held at the AGM Technical Symposium in June. This will be a virtual event this year with plans to postpone the in-person event to 2021.
Meagan Lenze

ExOne and Pitt Collaborate to Produce Promising Reusable Respirators with 3D Printed Metal Filters

Covid-19, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

News release originally published by ExOne. Reposted with permission. PITTSBURGH (April 27, 2020) ... The ExOne Company and the University of Pittsburgh have partnered to develop reusable metal filters that fit into a specially designed respirator cartridge for sustainable, long-term protection against contaminants, such as COVID-19. ExOne’s binder jetting technology is a high-speed form of 3D printing that can produce metal parts with specific porosity levels that can effectively filter out contaminants while allowing airflow. ExOne has 3D printed respirator filters in two metals — copper and 316L stainless steel — and a range of porosity levels for use inside a unique cartridge designed by the Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science department in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Initial testing for airflow and filtration efficiency is currently underway, and the filters are being optimized with the goal of adhering to an N95 respirator standard. “Our team has been working urgently to expedite this promising and reusable solution for medical personnel on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Hartner, ExOne CEO. “Our customers routinely print porous metal filters for a variety of purposes, and we are confident that we’ll have a solution soon that can enable medical personnel to sterilize metal filters for repeated reuse, eliminating waste. Once approved, we can print these filters in a variety of sizes for respirators, ventilators, anesthesia masks or other equipment.” “The advantage of binder jet 3D printing over other additive manufacturing methods for this filter application is the ability to utilize the porosity of the printed part and then fine tune it during the high temperature densification or sintering process to achieve optimum filtering and airflow performance,” said Markus Chmielus, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at the Swanson School. 3D Printed Metal Filter Project Details ExOne’s binder jetting technology uses an industrial printhead to selectively deposit a liquid binder onto a thin layer of powdered material, layer by layer, until a final object is formed. After 3D printing powdered metals, the object is then sintered in a furnace to dial in a specific level of porosity. While binder jetted metal is typically sintered to full density, some applications require a specific level of porosity, such as filters. To test filters in different metals and porosities, Dr. Chmielus’ research group is using CT scanners to analyze the microstructure and porosity of the filters. Ansys, the global leader in engineering simulation, also based near Pittsburgh, is providing additional computer simulation support to analyze and optimize the performance of the filters. While copper and stainless steel filters are currently being tested, copper has been known to have antibacterial properties since ancient times. The first recorded use of copper to kill germs was in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, the oldest known medical document in history, according to the Smithsonian. Many studies have proven copper’s disinfectant powers. One landmark 2015 study, funded by the Department of Defense, revealed that copper alloys contributed to a 58% reduction in infections. COVID-19 research also suggests the virus dies faster on copper than on other surfaces. ###
Author: Sarah Webster, ExOne Global Marketing Director
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