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Advanced Manufacturing Institute

AMI Helps Kansas Company Increase Production and Efficiency with New Machine

(Manhattan, Kan. August 18, 2008) – The Advanced Manufacturing Institute, also known as AMI, at Kansas State University has developed a stair nosing machine for Wichita-based Balco Inc., a world leader in the manufacturing of architectural products.

The machine applies non-slip abrasive mixture to aluminum stair nosings, according to John Bloomfield, the Advanced Manufacturing Institute's lead engineer on the project. Prior to the machine's development, Balco workers had to apply the mixture manually using putty knives and form squeegees, treating only 10 feet of material every three minutes, Bloomfield said.

The institute designed the new machine to work with Balco's existing batch mixing process.

After a bucket of mixture is loaded into the machine for dispensing, an operator feeds an empty aluminum extrusion into the machine and a power feed system drives the extrusion under a form plate where the non-slip abrasive mixture is dispensed to finished shape and surface quality. A second operator then catches the finished work piece and puts it on a curing rack to harden, Bloomfield said.

The machine also improves the quality of the finished product, according to Bloomfield, by masking the abrasive mixture from the areas of aluminum that remain exposed, leaving a finish that is free of residue.

"We started with a blank sheet design and used a phased approach to develop a machine geometry that would automate their process," Bloomfield said. "The machine will make processing more efficient, allowing 10 feet of material to be treated a minute."

"AMI worked with us to design and build a unique machine to increase our output," said Ron Knak, vice president of engineering for Balco. "They were knowledgeable in design and procuring parts and provided excellent customer service."

K-State students serving as interns at the Advanced Manufacturing Institute who assisted with the development of the stair nosing machine project included Tyler Jelinek, senior in mechanical engineering, Danville; Josh Updyke, May 2008 bachelor's graduate in mechanical engineering, Manhattan; Aaron Kaufmann, May 2008 bachelor's graduate in biological and agricultural engineering, Oakley; and Caleb Kehoe, May 2008 bachelor's graduate in mechanical engineering, Harrisonville, Mo.