University News

WIU-QC Instructor Helps with ACOE Project

November 20, 2015

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – When Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) officials began considering work on a lock and dam bulkhead on the Ohio River, they turned to a Western Illinois University professor to create a three-dimensional model to help divers prepare for the underwater work.

WIU-Quad Cities Faculty Assistant Jeff Rose worked with the Inland Navigation Design Center (INDC) at the Rock Island District to print a 3-D model to help with the project.

"One of the main reasons the ACOE was interested in having a 3-D printed model, was because the divers who would be doing actual work have very limited visability underwater in the Ohio River, much like the Mississippi River," said Rose. "Being able to see the scale model of the lock, and how each step of construction is to occur, gives the divers a much better idea of what they will be feeling with their hands when underwater. It also allows them to communicate to the engineers on land if they run into any issues during the underwater construction."

The model was created for an ACOE project to replace a new lock bulkhead recess for the Emsworth Locks near Pittsburgh, PA. During times of emergency repair and maintenance, the navigational locks are blocked with temporary walls (called bulkheads), which prevent water from entering. The bulkheads must fit tightly in the lock wall and be held securely in place by a channel in the concrete wall, which is the recess.

AOCE Project Engineer Andrew Goodall contacted Rose about working on the project after striking out when seeking help from larger universities.

"We felt this would be a good opportunity to expose our students and faculty to real world applications of 3-D printing technology," said Rose.

The ACOE sent Rose the computer-aided design (CAD) model, and successive layers of material were used to create the model. The completed model was 1/90th scale of the real lock.

Rose said there was a slight struggle in scaling the metal plate down to work with the model's size.

"A half inch thick plate ends up about .005 inches thick when scaled down, and our printer had a hard time handling this, but we developed ways to work around these issues," he said. "It's what engineers do, design solutions using engineering principles."

Rose said the hope is that WIU will collaborate with the ACOE on future projects as well as supply interns and future employees to the agency.

"The Quad Cities continues to provide great support to the WIU School of Engineering," he said. "This provides our students with exposure cutting edge manufacturing technology, such as 3-D printing."

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