P19433: Plastic Bottle Chip Melter

Gate Reviews

Table of Contents

Gate Review Date: Friday 12/14/18 at 2pm.

MSD I: Readiness to move to Build & Test

The team completed a self-critique evaluation to review how the team worked together and accomplished tasks. The results can be found here

Current State of the Project: Status Review

The team is currently between the “yellow” and “red” categorizes. The team understands the MSD I requirements have not been fully met at this time, but have identified the major roadblocks and have created a detailed plan for the remaining of the semester and the first two weeks of MSD II.

During the DDR Phase, the team met with plastic experts from Pretium Packaging that strongly advised against using PET with the proposed design and process due to its physical properties and the team’s budget. After the DDR, the team, customers, and guide concluded that switching from PET to HDPE, creating a smaller mold, and purchasing new heaters is the best option for the project since it has the lowest overall risk.

HDPE is found in El Sauce, and has properties that better suit the current plastic melter design. The team is working to reduce the size of the new molds since the new goal is to prove the concept. A smaller mold would reduce the cost of materials and should allow for more uniform compression with the jack. The team re-submitted the new budget with adjusted costs to Dr. DeBartolo/MSD on 12/11/18.

This is the new smaller mold model

This is the new smaller mold model

Current BOM

Current BOM

Current Project Plan vs. Original Project Plan

Due to roadblocks encountered throughout the semester, the current project plan/schedule has changed several times since the original plan. The original scope of the project was to melt PET chips to create a usable product and business for locals in El Sauce, Nicaragua. The current scope of the project is to prove the proposed process will melt HDPE using a modified version of P18433 team’s melter.

The schedule has been delayed since the current heaters on the melter do not reach desired temperatures and because of the difficulty to work with the properties of PET. The team is currently behind schedule since all designs for the device are not finalized. Before the end of MSD I, the team would like to have an updated BOM that includes a smaller mold, new heaters, and material for the ventilation enclosure. The team also plans to finalize placement of the jack and relevant design components to prepare for the redesign of the melter at the beginning of MSD II.

The team struggled with the roadblocks since they put a hold on several other aspects of the project. The biggest issue the team has encountered has been the limited budget, there is not enough funds in the budget to purchase new heaters currently. The team has learned that even with delays, there are always other problems that can be worked on and solved in the meantime. One setback in the project cannot delay the entire project or no progress would be made, resulting in the team being even further behind schedule.

Current Risk Assessment vs. Original Risk Assessment

During Phase 1, the team had several important risks that related to the team’s budget, safety factors of the melter, technical aspects of the design, and the potential societal impacts the melter would have on El Sauce. Throughout the semester, the most important risks fluctuated and resulted with not enough time to fix issues and that a 12” x 12” sheet cannot be formed due to several factors.

The risk of the system not heating up quick enough has manifested itself into a problem. Not having heaters that can reach the desired temperature in a time that fits the ER and the team’s budget has delayed the project. Once the team reduces the cost of mold materials and determines if six new heaters are essential to the system, the budget will be re-submitted. Once these two issues are resolved, the team will be closer to the expected schedule.

The team is currently working on reducing these top risks by testing the melter’s ability to melt HDPE chips before MSD II. The team is also working with EHS to ensure all safety requirements are being met since the design of the melter and the material has been changed. A new, smaller and simplified mold has been designed to help reduce the cost of materials. The team will work with Gary from the Machine Shop at the beginning of MSD II to start the modifications of the frame and jack. The risk assessment from each phase began to escalate quickly once one problem occurred and was difficult to work around at times. The team is learning to prioritize top risks to work on and continuously work on other tasks to avoid falling behind and creating additional risks.

Individual Team Member Status


In MSD1 I delivered on the responsibilities assigned to me as best as I could as well as try to resolve roadblocks with the team. The electrical system was designed and theoretically modified to adjust for the microcontroller’s control of the heaters. Nick and I are in the process of programming the Teensy as an effective thermal controller and testing temperature sensors. We plan to modify the electrical components in MSD2 for testing the new heaters. I ordered the first round of components and materials which were needed for feasibility testing and more design modifications. MSD1 was full of roadblocks and lots of research of PET/HDPE plastic; I met with professors and subject matter experts on the properties and characteristics of the plastic we were testing with. I learned to adjust and use my time effectively to help push the project forward. In MSD2 I plan to do more research and help with scheduling as well as provide my work readily. I believe MSD1 has prepared the team and me to work around roadblocks and better plan for MSD2.


I was able to deliver on my personal responsibilities, aside from a few roadblocks. I assisted on a lot of feasibility testing and research and gained a lot of knowledge about melting PET and how feasible it is. I helped on the mechanical components of the design of the machine and made important decisions on dimensional tolerances and materials to keep costs down while still meeting all of the engineering requirements. I did utilize my MSD 1 plan effectively. I made sure to stay up to date with all of the MSD emails and information on edge and learned how to move through the inevitable roadblocks that popped up along the way. I learned that it is very important to look for input from those with more specific and detailed knowledge as soon as possible when trying to attack a difficult problem. The biggest issue we dealt with was lack of specific knowledge, but we now know how important it is to get knowledge first and then decide what to do with all of it after we’ve attained everything we can.


During this first semester of MSD I believe I delivered on my personal responsibilities as best I could. I was constantly updating the Edge page and making sure everything that need to be there was uploaded before the reviews and that each person who had worked on specific parts of the project uploaded their work as well. I was also able to assist with creating the 3D model. I did learn that it is important to contact people with more knowledge earlier on in the design process, as it would have been helpful to have a machinist look over the model sooner to give feedback on what could be modified and how. Not getting that information sooner set the team back a bit in that we will not have our 2D drawings ready to machine parts until MSD II, but that is one of the first things we will be doing once MSD II starts. Throughout this semester I did use my MSD plan at times, but I could have looked at it more often to keep up with what I should have had done and by when. The plan was realistic until the team hit a major roadblock and the plan was not adjusted accordingly. For MSD II, the plan will be adjusted throughout each phase to account for any more issues that arise during the building and testing phases.


During MSD I, I was able to deliver on some but not all of my personal responsibilities. Unfortunately, the electrical subsystem design is not currently complete due to the roadblocks we faced during the detailed design phase, but I plan to work with Deryck to finish this in preparation of MSD II. I was able to effectively use my MSD I plan otherwise and was able to come up with a system-level design for the electrical subsystem, and I was able to work with Deryck to pick out and order several electrical components. I learned from these experiences in MSD I that while we can set realistic schedules, sticking to them in the face of external setbacks can be challenging. As we move into MSD II, we should learn to better adjust our schedule and plans to account for roadblocks that we encounter in order to stay on track and meet our goals for our deliverables.


I believe I delivered on my personal responsibilities to the best of my ability, despite the roadblocks we encountered this semester. I worked diligently on the BOM/Budget, encouraging the team to make decisions rather than waiting, and motivating the team to push through and do all that we could despite the roadblocks. Additionally I helped research and benchmark, feasibility testing, helped cut and install insulation for a test run, and was present for Subject Manager experts meetings. Despite trying our best to work through the roadblocks I believe I could have pushed harder for the team to correct to get back on schedule. I have learned that you cannot become complacent or just wait for things to fall into place. Going forward, I will make it a priority to stick to the schedule as much as possible and motivate the team if we fall behind.


I think I effectively delivered on my personal responsibilities as the Communicator during the semester and contributed in other areas such as the design and feasibility testing. I continuously updated our customers about the project and organized and distributed related documents before and after reviews. I also was the main point of contact with SME's and suppliers which helped the team move forward with the project. Overall, I think I followed my MSD I plan for the most part, but I don't think I contributed to the design and mechanical aspects as much as other members. I got distracted contacting various people when the team encountered several roadblocks and making sure the Edge page and other documents were up to date. During MSD II, I plan to become more engaged with the mechanical aspects and will work towards balancing the communications role and mechanical engineer role more efficiently.

MSD II Schedule

MSD II: Project Close-Out

Gate Review Date: April 30th at 1pm, Senior Design Center
Final Device

Final Device

Status Review: Current State of the Project

Requirements vs. Performance

The performance of the melter was compared to the requirements the team had set during MSD I and were found to be mostly satisfied. Major requirements such as melting HDPE plastic chips to create a 6"x 6" sheet, reducing the cycle time, minimal expected repairs, and safety factors were met. A few requirements such as using the sheets in a vacuum former, the profitability of the melter in a small business, and the accessibility of parts in El Sauce to rebuild the melter were undetermined. Since the team reused several components from P18433 to reduce costs, the frame and mold components are heavy, making the device difficult to ship to El Sauce. Overall, team designed a device to prove that HDPE plastic chips can be transformed into sheets in under one hour.

Requirements vs. Performance

Requirements vs. Performance

The Requirements vs. Performance document can be found here.

Final Design

The final design of the melter is robust and is expected to last several years due to the steel frame. Components such as the mineral wool insulation, car jack, and mold will most likely need to be replaced after time. The team designed components of the melter, such as the jack support, to disassemble easily to allow users to replace parts as needed.


The original budget of $500 from MSD was increased to $800 after realizing new heaters were essential to the success of the project. With the additional funding, the team was able to purchase all necessary components to complete the project. Although the team would have liked to add other features such as a cover for the insulation, all functional components were purchased within budget with $30 remaining.

Customer Feedback

Our 4 Walls customers were delighted with team's final product after months of hard work. Although the team did not provide a device that can create ready to use products such as rain gutters or roof shingles for El Sauce locals, the team has performed valuable research and testing for future teams.

Current Project Plan vs. Original Plan

During MSD II the scope of the project was changed significantly. At the end of MSD I, we discussed properties of PET plastic with a Subject Matter Expert who informed us that PET plastic properties would prevent us from easily being able to melt and shape it. In the beginning of MSD II, we re-evaluated the scope of the project and changed the plastic from PET to HDPE.

We were not able to follow our MSD II schedule as planned as we were 1-2 weeks behind at each phase review due to issues with placing orders, lost components, trouble getting time in the shop/with Gary, etc. At the beginning of each phase, we tried to logically map out the order and time each task would take to complete and show this on the Gantt chart. By the end of each phase, the Gantt chart often looked nothing like it did to begin with. Tasks were moved around, estimated times were incorrect, or completing the tasks were delayed.

We have learned that when estimating time to complete tasks you should always be realistic and give more time than you think you would need. Also, when scheduling you need to understand that the schedule will change. Being as flexible as possible was important, as well as making sure to accelerate tasks when others were delayed.

Risk Assessment and Problem Tracking

During MSD II, the team was able to eliminate major risks such as the heaters excessive time to reach desired temperatures, not having enough time to fix electrical issues, which ultimately would lead to not being able to form a uniform 6"x 6" x 1/8" sheet. All risks were re-evaluated resulting in reducing the likelihood and severity resulting in a low risk project.

Risks the team did not originally plan for were the heaters taking much longer to order and ship than anticipated in the Gantt chart and taking more time to machine and weld parts. Time was a constraint the team did not always account for and has learned to always start tasks such as design and fabrication early on to leave time for delays.

Problem Tracking allowed the team to locate risks that had transformed into problems by a six step problem solving process. This process helped the team understand the options for resolving each problem and was an efficient method. The Problem Tracking helped guide the team with problems such as not completing all orders, not installing the jack, and misplacing an IR sensor late.

Individual Team Member Status


During MSD 2 there was a lot more movement, from purchasing, designing, fabrication, and assembly. I was in charge of purchasing all components and devices that were needed by the team also working with Nick on keeping the electrical system moving and on track. Nick and I worked with and around our schedules to make sure all devices and designs for the electrical system were correct, posing no danger. We did encounter a few setbacks and multiple roadblocks which were unexpected but we did our best to work on other things while they were being resolved. Nick and I continued to work with Josie to ensure the best location for the IR sensor and make the stand. The protoboard was soldered successfully before Imagine RIT but it left a gray area since we didn’t test out the device and its accessories. In all, we did reach our goals of melting the plastic and characterizing the device but only after numerous setbacks. I learned to plan for the worst and adapt when necessary, even if it means coming in on weekends.



During MSD II, I was more on top of adding things to the Edge page and keeping it up to date. I was also able to become more involved in the design and fabrication of the project. Throughout the semester I was able to work with Gary in the machine shop, as well as John and Shannon to reassemble the melter device and work on the mechanical parts of the system. I was able to utilize my CAD skills, brush up on my machine shop knowledge through MSD II. I could have discussed the MSD II plan with the team more and followed mine a little closer to make sure I was on schedule, but in the end we were able to get the device functioning. I learned how to design things that will work, and that adjusting the design and system during the build phase is a good thing, because there can always be a better way of doing something. I also learned that there will always be set backs during a project, but there are things that can still be worked on while in the process of resolving those set backs.


During MSD II, I better made adjustments to the schedule for completing the electrical system as we advanced through the semester. As we ran into several setbacks during assembly of the electrical system, I tried to better ensure that we could still test and continue to progress despite that. I continued to work with Deryck on finalizing the design and in coming up with a layout for a permanent protoboard setup for the microcontroller as well. However, several setbacks towards the end of the semester and conflicts with my own personal schedule meant we did not finish the protoboard until just before Imagine RIT, giving us no time to do a full system test with the permanent electrical setup. I learned from my experience in MSD II that setbacks are inevitable, even when you try to plan around them, but that readjusting a schedule to account for that is still possible.


During this second phase of MSD, I was more attentive to deadlines and keeping the team on track. I kept the Gantt chart up to date more and tried to capture all tasks that needed to be completed. I used the last few minutes of every meeting to go over what needed to be done, and delegate tasks evenly. Additionally, I helped with the documentation of the project. I continued to work diligently on the BOM/Budget, writing the technical paper, the user instructions, helping with the test procedures. I also helped the team with plastics testing and refining the melting process. We made a conscious effort to document thoroughly for the customer and a potential carry-on team. Some unexpected tasks came up and my MSD plan was not followed exactly as planned. I learned that keeping up with deadlines is very important and you can't let tasks slide when there is a hard deadline approaching.


During MSD II, I became more involved with the design and fabrication of parts while continuing working on documentation of the project and communicating with our customers. My personal responsibilities expanded during this phase since the building and assembly of the melter was the main task which allowed me to brush up on my CAD and machining skills and was more hands on. I also spent a lot of time working on documentation this phase since the team needs to provide clear and concise documents for future teams and potential users. I think I could have utilized my MSD II plan more effectively since the project schedule often changed and other tasks became priority over my planned tasks. I have learned that there will always be some type of roadblock in projects and one must learn to adapt to the changing schedules and continue moving forward when issues arise.

Lessons Learned

We learned many lessons as a team during this phase. We arrived back to school in the beginning of the semester expecting the new heaters we ordered to be waiting there for us. However, when we got back we found they had not even been ordered! We learned that we needed to be more diligent in following up on when we placed orders. This issue caused many delays in the progress of the project.

We also learned that it is necessary to do as much fabrication in the beginning of the semester as possible. Some advice for future teams would be to utilize Gary from the machine shop to review designs. Gary has a good eye for designs and can often simplify thoughts and ideas.

We also suggest contacting Subject Matter Experts as soon as possible. We didn't speak to a SME until the end of MSD I, and our discussions totally altered the scope of our project.

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