C103 Electrode Sampling

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2018 NiobiumSampling NiobiumStock.jpg
Raw Niobium
Sponsors ATI Metals
Team Name Niobium Extraction Squad
Duration Summer 2018 - Fall 2018
Faculty Adviser Matthew Swenson
  • Faculty Name
Mentor Andre Corpus
  • Mentor Names
Client ATI Metals
  • Name / Organization
Team Members
  • Gabriel Cureton
  • Zach Devorak
  • Daniel Salinas
  • Tim Butler

The goal of the project is to improve the sampling process by which ATI (Allegheny Technologies – Albany, OR) uses to sample their Niobium Alloy, C103.

Problem Definition[edit]


ATI is global provider of specialty alloys and components which include our alloy of interest, Niobium based C-103. C-103 is refractory alloy commonly used for aerospace applications due to its heat resistive properties. For quality control purposes, ATI samples each C103 ingot they forge multiple times so verification testing can be completed at their lab. The current process which accomplishes this task is via the use of an air hammer while it is held in a lathe. This practice often produces inconsistent samples that are either rejected by the lab or produce skewed results, and is not at all ergonomic.


The scope of this project, titled C103 Electrode Sampling, is to create a sampling mechanism to improve the current procedure on the C103 ingot and final C103 pole. The focus will be placed on changing the operator’s current sampling process to meet the lab’s wants/needs and improve efficiency for the operators. An improved and successful sampling mechanism/process will be faster and consistent as well as incur savings as a result of reduced yield loss.

Product Requirements[edit]

  • Produce CONSISTENT samples
  • Reduce the time it takes the operator’s to take sample from the logs/electrodes
  • Produce samples that have a relatively flat surface area, so that lab technicians can easily prep and test accurately
  • Minimize the depth of tooling into the logs/electrodes when sampling
  • Sample should provide 4 grams of turnings for the lab
  • Reduce possibilities of contamination
  • Be more ergonomic and efficient so that the operator experiences less strain when taking samples
  • Sample should be at least ⅛” thick and at least ½” by ½”

Design Considerations[edit]

Idea 1[edit]

Idea 1
Revised Idea 1

The first idea we came up with involves a pneumatic nail-gun style apparatus attached to a mount for stability.


The updated design has a bar mount to the initial sawhorse, and uses a simple lever design to simply increase the force and guide the existing chisel.

Idea 2[edit]

Idea 2

External structure to lathe that slides into place and latches two sides together over the top of the lathe to allow operator to operate air chisel with guidance assistance and pushing assistances on the air chisel.

Idea 3[edit]

Idea 3
Idea 3 Collar
Idea 3 Guide Block

This is collar/pinching mechanism that has curved teeth to bite out tangent to the poles.


The updated design uses a hydraulic press to push a tooth on a guide to scrape out a piece slowly, but more consistently.

Idea 4[edit]

Blade/chisel moving in pendulum motion to minimize impact depth.

Idea 4

Final Direction[edit]

2018 NiobiumSampling DecisionMatrix.PNG

Final Design[edit]

After the design validation presentation, we decided that the best direction would be to take the rod mount from idea 1, to mount the hydraulic collar from idea 3.

2018 NiobiumSampling Reccomendation.PNG

Future Plans[edit]

  • Finalize final collar shape to accommodate various diameters
  • Hydraulic Press Testing on ingots
  • Component Drawings
  • Tooling Selection & Order

Expected Benefits[edit]

We expect this design to eliminate the majority of ergonomic strain on our operators, while also improving the consistency and quality of the sample produced for testing by at least 2x.


As part of our validation, we have recieved test materials of Niobium to verify the strength of our hydraulics. we will be using a force guage on a hydraulic press to verify that our calculations are accurate.

2018 NiobiumSampling Calculation.png
2018 NiobiumSampling Sample.jpg

Project Learning[edit]

As this is a class project, we have been cataloging things we have learned along the way.

  • We have taken great strides in communication, learning how to set up conference calls, and effectively use email chains as a primary means of communication, both with fellow team members, and with other team memebers.
  • So far, we have learned that C103 can be brittle, and react negatively with aluminium.
  • Alloy Formation Process

2018 NiobiumSampling Process.PNG

  • Client interview trip
    • Final C103 is crumbly and brittle
    • C103 cannot come into contact with aluminium
    • Alloy forged incopper crucibles and undergo electromagnetic stirring
    • Pole sampling done at top, 3/4 point, ½ point, 1/4 point, and bottom
    • Relatively flat metal surface preferred for gas analysis
    • Common dimple sampling technique not ideal for C103 alloy; technique cause fab to remove significant amount of material in preparing final product for shipping. Expensive alloy.
    • Lab prefers to make their own millings/turnings
    • Go/no go gauge idea was well received
    • Hardened steel chisel was used
    • C103 used for second stage rocket engine applications, ex. SpaceX and Apollo 11
    • Niobium is the lightest of the refractory metals and makes it a good candidate for aerospace applications
    • Sampling happens to make sure that they are correctly alloying the Niobium

Team Members[edit]

2018 NiobiumSampling GabeProfile.JPG
Gabriel Cureton

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Boise, ID
Graduation Date: Fall 2018

2018 NiobiumSampling ZachProfile.jpg
Zach Devorak

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Uniontown, WA
Graduation Date: Fall 2018

2018 NiobiumSampling DanielProfile.jpg
Daniel Salinas

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Twin Falls, ID
Graduation Date: Fall 2018

2018 NiobiumSampling TimProfile.PNG
Tim Butler

Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Eagle, ID
Graduation Date: Fall 2018

Additional Documentation[edit]

Team Contract

File:2018 NiobiumSampling Contract.pdf

Project Schedule

File:2018 NiobiumSampling Schedule.pdf

Client Interview

File:2018 NiobiumSampling ClientInterview.pdf