Fluid Power University Profiles: MSOE

MSOE leads in motion control and fluid power education

The fluid power program at the Milwaukee School of Engineering is one of seven programs collaborating under the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. The CCEFP is a network of researchers, educators, students and industry leaders, funded by the National Science Foundation. A majority of the program’s funding comes from projects put forth by the industry, with the remaining funding coming from CCEFP projects.

“MSOE is a private, non-stock, non-profit corporation owned by the industry,” Thomas Wanke, director of the Fluid Power Institute, said. “We have about 150 companies that are a part of our corporation.”

The Fluid Power Institute was started in 1962 and performs research and performance evaluations for numerous companies that manufacture or use hydraulic components, including Caterpillar, John Deere and Parker Hannifin Corp. The Institute has even preformed systems testing for the U.S. military.

Undergraduate students make up the greater portion of student involvement in the institute, with only a couple graduate students participating at any one time.

“We consider ourselves to be the premier undergraduate research facility in fluid power in the country,” Paul Michael, a research chemist at the Fluid Power Institute, said.

Advanced Pneumatic2 300x206The program is focused primarily on motion control and fluid power education, research and evaluation. Students learn the basics of fluid power, modeling of systems and components and open and closed loop electro-hydraulic control systems.

The Institute also offers professional education seminars where participants can learn about the most recent advances in technology, application and techniques. Most of these seminars are meant to keep engineers in the fluid power industry ahead of technological advancements, but other classes are designed to help new entrants into the industry better understand the real-world technology. The seminars, which are presented by MSOE faculty and members of the industry, are conducted in a hands-on fashion.

“We’re trying to promote the industry and new technology and make people aware that fluid power is a major force in America,” Wanke said.

The Institute has at its disposal a 2400 sq-ft fluid power research laboratory located on campus with enough power to operate a wide variety of hydraulic components under high pressure and flow conditions. The lab includes test cells rated from 50- to 450-hp; a 70,000 psi burst pressure chamber and a 1000 psi collapse chamber.

FPI is also equipped with fluid and tribology laboratories. Contamination and filtration technologies are some of the many fields of research undertaken by the institute. During the 1990s, the institute pioneered the development of surgically clean fluids for initial-fill applications and in the 2000s was the first to use Atomic Force Microscopy in wear particle analysis. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, the institute is also researching energy-efficient hydraulic fluids.

One way that the Institute is doing its part to improve the standards of the fluid power industry is by creating new ATSM standards and NFPA contamination standards. In an effort to improve early failure detection, the institute has also developed the means to extract and analyze the wear particles that are captured in system filters. Using advanced diagnostic methods such as ferrography, atomic force microscopy, stereomicroscopy and laser particle imaging, the institute can catch and find the root-cause of a failure before it happens.

Milwaukee School of Engineering/FPI


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