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Advanced Manufacturing Institute

AMI Provides Kansas Company a Competitive Advantage

(Manhattan, Kan., March 6, 2009) – Kansas State University's Advanced Manufacturing Institute has assisted a Kansas company with the development of a new machine that helps reduce its costs and improve its product.

Rex Materials Group, also known as RMG, is a provider of heat containment products for a variety of plastic and metal handling applications. The company, which has a production facility in Council Grove, received assistance from K-State's Advanced Manufacturing Institute in the development of its new wire bender.

"The concept began with two identical machines already owned by RMG that were manually operated," said John Bloomfield, the Advanced Manufacturing Institute's lead engineer on the project. "Because this new machine is not manually operated, RMG benefits from increased product and part quality.

"The machine reduces labor costs, improves part quality by reducing quality defects inherent with the machines, and decreases repetitive motions, which can cause injury to workers," Bloomfield said. "Previously, it took manual operators about six to eight weeks to learn the process of diagnosing the machine and setting it up correctly. Now, operators can be trained in a day, and set up takes less than five minutes."

The machine is operated by a touch screen and is capable of remembering specific recipes for part numbers, Bloomfield said.

"If the machine already knows the part recipe, it will start immediately after the tools and wire are loaded," he said. "The Advanced Manufacturing Institute generated equations that drive motion, making the machine more flexible with different recipes."

"We loved working with the Advanced Manufacturing Institute," said Brad Valentine, director of operations at RMG. "The wire bender machine that the institute developed has provided us a competitive advantage, allowed us to offer new products and focus on quality. It was a great collaborative effort between K-State's Advanced Manufacturing Institute and RMG. Our management, engineers and production team are pleased with the machine, as well as our customers. We were impressed with the institute engineer's skills and the student interns who worked on the project."

K-State students Tyler Jelinek, senior in mechanical engineering, Danville, and Kyle Warren, senior in mechanical engineering, Lenexa, were involved in designing and building the machine.

"I learned a lot about motion control working on the wire bender project," Jelinek said. "It was exciting to watch the machine run for the first time and to see how pleased the RMG employees who ran the former machine were about the new machine we developed."