Hill Engineering Blog

Senior Design 2023: An automated wire preparation device

Over the years, Hill Engineering has had the opportunity to work with mechanical engineering undergraduate students at University of California, Davis, as part of their senior design capstone. The capstone pairs a group of students with a sponsor company in the industry to address a design challenge presented by the sponsor. For the 2022-23 school year, Hill Engineering submitted a project to the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department for an automated wire preparation device. This device would mainly be used by our engineers to cut “jumper wires” for a strain gage assembly, which are used for the many residual stress measurements we perform.

These short, thin wires join a strain gage to a terminal pad that is connected to a measurement device and act as a relief from pulling on the strain gage itself, which could lead to debonding from the part surface. The current process for cutting these wires is cumbersome, requiring the use of multiple tools to process a stranded wire and cut them into smaller lengths. Because cutting is done manually, wires can vary in length, which in turn can lead to inconsistent strain output. We saw many opportunities to increase both the efficiency and accuracy in our laboratory activities with this device and those goals were what we hoped the student design team would meet.

After being presented with design objectives and considerations, the students worked through most of the school year meeting with our project manager on a regular basis, prototyping various components, iterating on the design based on feedback given during design reviews, and, finally, assembling a fully functional system that is used in our laboratory. Images of the final device are below.

A wire cutting device with a black frame and electronics housing and a clear safety cover. A spool of copper wire is attached to the device. A red LED readout shows the number “5” above two buttons and a dial
Automated wire preparation device

For students, getting to work with a company, applying knowledge learned in the lecture halls, and collaborating to solve a real-world engineering design problem is a highly rewarding experience and is quite possibly the culmination of their college career. We hope they take the skills gained from this experience and apply it to wherever they end up in the future.

We hope to continue our relationship with UC Davis and sponsor more capstone projects in the years to come. There is always a design problem to be solved!