HIGH-RESOLUTION MICROTRIBOMETER FOR SOFT MATERIALS

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For my senior design project at the University of Texas at Austin I collaborated with Dr. Mangolini of the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and three other students to develop a high-resolution microtribometer for soft materials for use in a research laboratory. The goal of this project was to design a tribometer for hydrogels with a frictional measurement resolution of 1 microNewton for ⅓ of the cost of existing commercial alternatives, which are around $120,000, for savings of upwards of $80,000. One of my main responsibilities of the project was to conduct FEA simulations of the load cell on Ansys to revise and evaluate the design. I was also responsible for designing an easily-removable enclosure to minimize wind and environmental interference. The enclosure consists of two chambers: the main chamber with the tribometer and another enclosure where heat-generating equipment can be placed. This second compartment prevents heat buildup in the main chamber, which could affect the material's performance. The enclosure works using magnets and 3D printed components that fit into 80/20 T-slot Aluminum rails for maximum ease of use. In the end, we designed a tribometer with an estimated cost of $19,050, about $20,000 less than our budget and saving Dr. Mangolini $100,000 when compared to commercial alternatives.