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Thomas Flammang

Improving efficiency in manufacturing: autoloader calibration and design

Thomas Flammang, a junior in mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK), loves tinkering with machines, especially cars.

Thomas Flammang

Thomas Flammang participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Robotics Internship Program. He interned at Kennametal, Inc., an American manufacturing company in Asheboro, North Carolina.

His interest in engineering started during his childhood. For six years, he and his father worked on a 1970 Mustang Mach 1. From that experience came his desire to design mechanical systems in cars.

In the summer of 2017, Flammang advanced his career goals through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Robotics Internship Program.

The Robotics Internship Program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to intern with public agencies and private companies for the continued development of the robotics technical and engineering workforce.

Flammang’s internship connected him to Kennametal, Inc., in Asheboro, North Carolina. Founded in 1938, Kennametal manufactures tools and other products for customers in aerospace, earthworks, energy, general engineering and transportation. The company serves customers in more than 60 countries, and it has facilities around the globe.

Flammang focused on autoloaders in computerized numerical control (CNC) grinders. CNC refers to automated systems that can improve productivity in machines used in manufacturing processes.

Flammang’s goal was to calibrate the autoloaders to run effectively and continuously, and to redesign the gripper arms on the autoloaders to accommodate a wide range of tools. His efforts focused on reducing wear on the grippers, decreasing the risk of injury to machine operators and eliminating the need to load the machines by hand. Bradley Mabe, senior manufacturing engineer, served as Flammang’s mentor.

During a typical day, Flammang performed mechanical and software calibrations on machines. He gained new skills in software troubleshooting, machine design and manufacturing operations.

“My favorite part of the internship was how hands-on it was. It was enjoyable to come into work every day and work on machines or design parts,” said Flammang.

Following the completion of the internship, Flammang returned to UTK to finish his bachelor’s degree. After graduation, he hopes to gain employment with an automotive firm where he can apply his engineering skills and interests.

The EERE Robotics Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and administered through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.