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Are we losing the fundamental understanding of how to teach variation in Material Engineering?

Dr Peter Hammersberg | Chalmers University of Technology

Are we losing the fundamental understanding of how to teach variation in Material Engineering?

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Tolerances are the cradle of the industrial revolution. Without them mass production would not be possible and prices and cost levels would not be defined. It would not be possible to define what quality level is good enough and variations that should drive continuous improvements and robustness efforts. The outgoing variation in any monitored material characteristic, or key performance indicator KPI, from any manufacturing process, is build up by many different types of sources of variation along the whole up stream value chain, which include variation from: raw materials, process equipment stability, varying quality of information, methods and competences etc. One of the major challenges today is that measurement systems that once had the necessary precision today are outdated when process stabilities are improved and we (the engineering teaching community) have lost the ability to teach the young engineers the general know-how of how to separate a signal from noise when there is lack of precision in process monitoring. The problem is perfectly captured by a Six Sigma Master Black Belt at an advanced manufacturing company: "The young engineers of today only can do nominal calculations - they don't understand variation and cannot handle it. We need to put them in production for a while before they can contribute to the the modern Robust Engineering of our products". This general engineering know-how seems to fall between chairs at Engineering Schools. What can the Material Teaching community do to facilitate product industrialization and to mitigate varying material performance and outdated precision in for example, hardness and fatigue testing?