Platers Go Back to School to Help Future Engineers



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For several years, the NASF’s Bright Design Challenge has been partnering with colleges to introduce would-be designers and engineers to the world of surface finishing, and now another partnership has emerged that offers platers the chance to work with tomorrow’s manufacturing engineers.

Milt Stevenson of Anoplate Corp. in Syracuse, N.Y., wants more finishing shops to become part of this program that pairs the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) with collegiate engineering and technology students. Formula SAE is a competition among more than 250 college and university engineering departments whereby students design and build an actual Formula-style race car and compete head-to-head against other schools before representatives of automobile manufacturers.

“Part of the design and build process involves knowing about plating and surface finishing of various parts and components,” says Stevenson, a NASF national board member. “It’s an exceptional opportunity for those of us in the metal finishing industry to meet and get to know the future engineers in manufacturing.”



The NASF has worked with the College for Creative Studies in Detroit on the Bright Design Challenge, while the West Coast Bright Design Challenge has been affiliated with Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for the last several years.

Stevenson says the Formula SAE program gives platers across the U.S.  another chance to get involved with future engineers. “Reaching out to a handful of artists or automotive designers is good,” he says. “But accelerating this to reach out to hundreds of graduating engineers is kicking our industry’s exposure to a whole new level.”

He suggests NASF-member shops contact their local technical university teams to offer their services. He also thinks it would be a good idea for the NASF to prepare an educational presentation on how surface engineering might help in overall vehicle performance, or overcome wear or corrosion issues.

Anoplate has been involved with the Formula SAE program for almost 20 years, although the company does very little automotive plating. “We certainly aren’t doing this to gain a greater share of automotive work,” Stevenson says. “Instead, Anoplate introduces tomorrow’s engineers to surface finishing and overcoming the rigors of wear and corrosion.”




Over the years, Anoplate has supported Forumula SAE teams from Auburn, Clarkson, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Penn State, and RIT with finishes from hardcoat anodize to electroless nickel PTFE composite plating.

Anoplate offers the team finishing services at no charge, but Stevenson says that, in the past two decades, “it probably hasn’t entailed $10,000 in what we might have charged, but in doing so we’ve exposed hundreds of engineers to consider surface engineering as an enhancement to their overall design,” he says.

The students are grateful they can rely on expertise provided by the plating shops to help them decide on a coating for a particular part.




Jesse Greene, team leader for the Cornell University Formula SAE race team, says he enjoys picking the brains of the Anoplate professionals to helping design and build his school’s car. “We anodized a lot more components, which really helped increase the fit and finish of our car,” Greene says. “A lot of judges and spectators noticed and commented on the increased professionalized look.”

Visit short.pfonline.com/iUedbZge to see a list of institutions with Fomula SAE teams and their websites.