Project-based Learning in Action: Master’s Students of the IET Improving the Environmental Friendliness of Chroming Parts

As part of project-based learning, the staff of the Department of Automation Engineering and Master’s students of the 15.04.05 Design and Engineering Support of Machinery Production major are working on the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of the process of chrome plating of cylindrical parts using the development of a new technology of a closed plating cycle. The project’s participants are planning on developing an energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly technology for applying a hard chrome coating onto solids of revolution and developing laboratory installations with a mobile electrolytic bath. We spoke with the head of the project, Dmitriy Ardashev, about the specifics of the project, its unique ecological significance, the involvement of Master’s students in the project, and much more.

– What makes your project unique? How can this new technology be applied to manufacturing?

– Jointly with OOO Ural Engineering Centre, we are developing an energy-efficient and ecological method for applying a hard chrome coating onto solids of revolution. This technology is unique in that it should support the organization of the closed chrome plating process without interaction with the surrounding environment, which makes it possible to significantly reduce the negative effects on the surrounding environment and on the staff by removing the emissions of toxic chromium compounds.

– How can this technology be fulfilled in industrial settings?

– The hard chrome plating of cylindrical parts which we obtain through the fulfilment of this technology can find use in all fields of industry that require improved strength and anti-corrosive qualities for their equipment. This includes the machine building industry, instrument building, heavy engineering, and machine tool building. As a result of this project, we and OOO Ural Engineering Centre will be able to reproduce an area for chrome plating on solids of revolution on an industrial scale.

– How is cooperation with your industrial partner organized within the project?

– Ural Engineering Centre is the only business that has the manufacturing strengths to apply hard chrome coating on long work pieces (bodies of rotation) and on large-diameter work pieces. We got very lucky that our industrial partner by order of the Federal Targeted Program is in Chelyabinsk, so we have no problems with active partnership. The visionaries from Ural Engineering Centre are specialists who have worked with SUSU for years.

Despite the fact that I am participating in the Federal Targeted Program for the first time as a supervisor from the University’s side and working with Ural Engineering Centre for the first time, we have found a common language and we are working, from my point of view, on interesting things and with good productivity.

– How are the Master’s students from your Department involved in project-based learning?

– Five Master’s students from the Department of Automation Engineering are involved in the project. They are studying in the Design and Engineering Support of Machinery Production program. Thematically, the project is closer to metallurgy and the physical chemistry of applying coatings. Fulfilling this project, we must develop design documentation for the chrome plating installation. The Master’s students are involved in the development of this design documentation.

The main task of each Master’s student is to develop and analyse the design and technological documentation and prepare parts for the chrome plating installations. This involves constructions with a hydrolytic bath, an electrolyte supply system, an ecological safety installation, and a system for powering the installation. We already have the equipment, but all of this requires the development of design and technological documentation to prepare the parts.

The result of this project will be the creation of three installations: small, medium, and big chrome plating stations. Each installation consists of several big units, and each Master’s student’s goal at this moment is to get acquainted with the existing project materials. Within their Master’s dissertations, they are working on developing the design documentation for these units, and in the future they will prepare technological documentation for the creation of parts within these units and on the technological process of putting the separate parts together to form the units.

Installation with mobile electrolyte bath for the application of a hard chrome coating on bodies of rotation


– Is your project interdisciplinary?

– Our project is at the intersection of physical chemistry, metallurgy, and engineering technology. We plan to involve other departments of the university in our project in the future. In summer 2017, at one of the meetings with the Vice-Rector for Research Aleksandr Diakonov, it was noted that the Ural Engineering Centre has a good, big industrial idea that they would like to fulfil with the attraction of SUSU financing. We work actively with the Ural Engineering Centre, where we plan on making more developments. We have held meetings a few times at SUSU and wrote applications for support for our project as part of the Federal Targeted Program. Today, our application is successfully supported.

– What has been done within the project as of now?

– We have formed an assignment for the Master’s students and held installation consultations. They will take the “beginners’ training” and correlate their project proposals with the assignments we gave them. We also attended a seminar organized by our industrial partner. This seminar is held each year by the Ural Engineering Centre which has many partners in Russia and abroad. At the seminar, I gave a presentation about the chrome plating project. The first results of this work have already been documented.

– Will the Master’s students be able to find jobs with your industrial partner?

– The students will be able to visit industrial facilities and see with their own eyes how chrome plating installations are prepared from their own schematics. The Master’s students have a schematic in their hands that they created, and they can see how the part that they developed is functioning in a unit at the facility. It is very important for them to know that the things they are developing will become reality in the near future. It’s very important for them to see this.

– Tell me please, what are the future plans within the project?

– We are planning a scientific conference for Bachelor’s, Master’s, and postgraduate students in Spring 2019, in which our Master’s students will definitely take part and talk about their developments. Beyond that, next year, as part of an interdisciplinary partnership, we are planning on bringing in additional students from among physical chemistry and metallurgy students from other departments. We are planning on working with the physics and chemistry students of the Institute of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. We are planning on actively developing this partnership beginning next year: the project is fairly difficult, labour-intensive, and multi-faceted. Due to the wide range of tasks, it’s difficult to organize the interdisciplinarity. Within our interdisciplinary cooperation, we will need to work with the teaching staff of other departments, since we will have to give their students goals and tasks.

The project’s main goal for 2020 is to develop an area for chrome plating at the Ural Engineering Centre, which includes three different installations for applying hard chrome coating on work pieces of various diameters and lengths.

Since project-based education is implemented in the second year of our project, our students will work on the first and second installations, getting involved in the development of the design documentation for them. The final goal for 2020 is to develop the whole chrome plating area. And it will certainly be achieved.

Yuliya Rudneva; photos: personal photos of the article’s heroes
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