CLEMSON — A Clemson University student who will receive her master’s degree on Friday said she will pay off her student loans and establish a scholarship with the $100,000 she won for developing manufacturing software.

Valerie Pezzullo, 24, won first place in the MTConnect Challenge 2 for an application that detects vibrations in metal-cutting machines so that corrections can be made before parts are damaged.

Valerie Pezzullo won $100,000 for developing manufacturing software as part of her thesis and a contest.

Valerie Pezzullo won $100,000 for developing manufacturing software as part of her thesis and a contest.

The application is expected to help manufacturers that rely on computer-controlled CNC machines to make highly precise parts for a variety of industries, ranging from automotive to aerospace.

It could have an especially large impact on manufacturers that use high-value materials.

Regenerative vibration, or “chatter,” can ruin parts that cost as much as $20,000 each in raw materials alone. By the time the vibrations are audible, it’s too late because the part already may be damaged.

Pezzullo’s application gathers data from sensors and gives machine operators the information they need to reduce or suppress vibrations while the machine is operating. The data can also be analyzed and communicated in the machining network to help prevent vibrations in future operations.

Machines could eventually use the data to self-correct, Pezzullo said.

“As a student, it was exciting to go through the design and see it through to the final product,” said Pezzullo, who is from Selden, a hamlet on New York’s Long Island. “The app is very practical and useful for industry.”

Pezzullo’s application was part of her thesis and an offshoot of previous research done by her adviser, Laine Mears, associate professor of automotive engineering.

“It will have a big impact on manufacturing, especially in the Upstate, because manufacturing is such a large part of the economy,” he said. “This is a great example of automatically generating information and using it to improve manufacturing quality and productivity.”

Pezzullo and Mears said they are working out the details to use some of her winnings to establish a scholarship that would target female students who are studying engineering.

Pezzullo, who will receive a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, did her research at the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).

“We’re very proud of Valerie’s work,” said Imtiaz Haque, executive director of the Carroll A. Campbell Graduate Engineering Center at CU-ICAR.

“This award is a further validation of the increasing recognition of the high-quality of work being done by students and faculty at the Campbell Center at CU-ICAR. It also serves as an excellent example of how students, faculty and industry come together at CU-ICAR to work for the common good.

“Our students are receiving a highly relevant education, while industry benefits from the unique perspective and fresh ideas our students bring to the table.”

Pezzullo worked on machines provided by Okuma America Corp., a Charlotte subsidiary of Okuma Corporate, that makes CNC machine tools.

Brian Sides, Okuma America’s director of technology, said it’s of vital importance to eliminate chatter in the machining process.

“If you have chatter, you’re likely going to have a bad part,” he said. “Engineers can come in later to see what went wrong, but they don’t always know all the conditions at play when it happened.”

Pezzullo’s application is called “Machining Process Monitoring to Aid in Chatter Identification.”

It was designed to integrate with the MTConnect standard piloted by the nonprofit Association for Manufacturing Technology. MTConnect helps manufacturing machines communicate with each other.

The contest that Pezzullo won called on participants to develop innovative and unique software applications using the MTConnect standard. The applications were supposed to be easily adopted by manufacturers, especially lower-tier producers, to enhance their capabilities and support the Department of Defense (DoD) supply chain-management objectives.

“She did that by a mile,” Sides said.

Okuma America aided Pezzullo’s research by putting MTConnect software on the machines at CU-ICAR and providing technical support. Pezzullo tested her application on a control simulator at Okuma America’s plant.

She also took an Okuma America simulator with her to Orlando when she presented her application at [MC]2 2014 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference.

Attendees voted her the winner of the MTConnect Challenge 2.

The contest was sponsored by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Defense-wide Manufacturing Science and Technology (DMS&T), AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology and the U.S. Army Benét Labs.

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Okuma America Corporation
Okuma America Corporation is the U.S.-based sales and service affiliate of Okuma Corporation, a world leader in CNC (computer numeric control) machine tools, founded in 1898 in Nagoya, Japan. The company is the industry’s only single-source provider, with the CNC machine, drive, motors, encoders, spindle and CNC control all manufactured by Okuma. Okuma’s innovative and reliable technology, paired with comprehensive, localized service protection, allows users to run continuously with confidence – maximizing profitability.  Along with its industry-leading distribution network (largest in the Americas), and Partners in THINC®, Okuma facilitates quality, productivity and efficiency, empowering the customer and enabling competitive advantage in today’s demanding manufacturing environment.  For more information, visit www.okuma.com or follow us on Facebook or Twitter@OkumaAmerica.

Clemson University
Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit, and a competitive drive to excel.