Platers and Coaters … Start Your Engines

Columns From: Products Finishing, , from Products Finishing magazine

Posted on: 1/1/2014

Products Finishing encouraging and recognizing Formula SAE shops by starting a competition amongst our readers called the “Products Finishing Cup.”

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Several months ago we wrote about a program that SAE International has run for several years that pits major U.S. and foreign college and university engineering schools against each other in a competition to design a Formula 1-type race car.

Engineering students from around the U.S. spend September through April each school year designing and building the components for the cars, then met in Michigan in May to be “graded” by their peers and professionals as to how well the race car was built.

They don’t race the cars, although they do have to demonstrate through obstacle courses how well the cars run and maneuver. The event draws thousands, and involves many of the top engineering students and minds on the planet.

SAE International is a global association of more than 138,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. The Formula SAE program brings tomorrow’s best engineers—albeit students today—together with the best in the manufacturing world today.

All of this is why our friend Milt Stevenson at Anoplate in Syracuse suggested we get onboard with this competition and help drive it, if you will. Milt’s company has been working with several of the engineering schools—namely Cornell and Rochester Institute of Technology—to help them plate and anodize parts for their cars.

The payoffs to the finishing industry are numerous: The more we get to know engineers and they get to know finishing, the better the relationship will be across all manufacturing sectors.

We’re sure that many plating and coating shops around the U.S. are also involved with the Formula SAE program, and so Products Finishing would like to help encourage and recognize those shops by starting a competition amongst our readers called the “Products Finishing Cup.”

The format is simple: We have a list on our website at PFonline.com that details all the schools in the Formula SAE competition, and we have list all the plating and coating shops that we know of that are helping out specific teams with their project.

When the judges’ scores are counted in May and the winning schools are announced, the finishing shop connected with the highest placing schools will be the winner of the Products Finishing Cup (it’s just like the Sprint Cup, except without the multi-million dollar prizes and the kiss on the cheeks from two trophy girls who always stand on each side of the NASCAR winner).

What we need to know is what plating and coating shops are working with which schools. Please send me an email at Tim.Pennington@PFOnline.com and let me know which school or schools you are helping, and I’ll add you to our list on PFonline.com.

If you are not currently involved with a local engineering school, check out our list at PFonline.com and click on the school nearest you to contact the organizers about how you can help.

Milt Stephenson says it is a few hours every year that he spends with his teams, offering advice and guidance on what coating should go on what parts, and then eventually plating the parts in his shop.

The commitment will be small, but it promises to be insightful, fun and rewarding, especially if the finishing community can build an even better relationship with the engineers of tomorrow who will be specifying which coatings will be used on tomorrow’s next car, appliance or airplane.

Products Finishing will showcase all the shops working with the Formula SAE schools, providing a link on our website and photos of their work when the schools supply them to us.

Wouldn’t it be great to hoist the Products Finishing Cup trophy at your local drinking hole, just like the Stanley Cup winners who take it to their various hometowns and show it off to family and friends? Go ahead, fill it with your favorite ale and wash down some corndogs just like the Red Wings and the Blackhawks.

We’ll let the winner keep a copy of the Products Finishing Cup, and we might even present it at a show like Sur/Fin or Fabtech or the Powder Coating Show. That way you can shove it in the face of your best buddy and gloat, maybe run it around the convention center singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

The Products Finishing Cup will be a fun contest. Email me and let me know with whom you’re working, or check out the list and get involved today. And then plan your victory speech when your school wins, just like Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights. Except leave out the curse words.

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