History & Overview
The Keweenaw Research Center of Michigan Technological University combines science and engineering to develop new technologies and solve real world problems.
The Keweenaw Research Center is a research agency of Michigan Technological University. Its goal is to generate and conduct externally funded research that supports the University's overall education mission.
KRC is located adjacent to the Houghton Memorial Airport in Calumet, Michigan, the former test site of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command, or TACOM. Before assuming ownership in 1993, Michigan Tech conducted mobility research and testing for TACOM at the site, and TACOM continues to be as sponsor of research and testing at KRC. KRC has top-quality capabilities in all phases of engineering design, analysis and testing, and applies advanced engineering principles to benefit its clients in the military, automotive, aerospace and marine industries. Research engineers at KRC utilize computer modeling coupled with experimental testing to provide a total solution to engineering problems. An example of this ongoing military based research and advanced engineering is a private company, ThermoAnalytics. This group started as a research division of KRC and then became an independent company. ThermoAnalytics specializes in infrared signature modeling and software.
KRC employs a multidisciplinary approach, working with Michigan Tech faculty on many applied research projects. This collaboration is demonstrated in KRC's role as the prime contractor for a new military track system. The Army's goal was to increase track durability while at the same time reducing weight. KRC researchers created and analyzed finite element models to optimize the weight. Then, materials processing experts at MTU guided the fabrication of sample material coupons. An experiment was designed at KRC to quantify wear on the test coupons that matched service loads. Materials evaluated in this effort included forged steel, cast steel, austempered ductile iron, and aluminum metal matrix composite. From this combined effort, an optimum design was developed and the system tested at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.
Using a combination of finite element analysis and modal analysis, KRC researchers have created and analyzed subscale models of futuristic vehicles to determine their natural frequencies and mode shapes. Their goal was to find out how a vehicle, with non-homogeneous material properties would react to various loads such as rough terrain and gunfire. Using modal analysis, operating deflection shapes, and signal processing techniques, they have helped solve vibration-induced failure problems.
Solving such problems has become a KRC specialty. Working with the faculty of the Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department, new methods are being developed for dealing with noise, vibration and harshness. Our research for both civilian and military clients has helped dampen excessive noise in products ranging from dishwashers to army tanks. And thanks to the vibration-control efforts of KRC engineers, drivers of both bulldozers and all-terrain vehicles can enjoy a smoother, quieter ride on the trail or at the job site.
The center's MTS Elastomer Test Machine compliments the noise, vibration and harshness effort. The test machine can not only characterize rubber and other elastomeric materials using standard ASTM and SAE tests, but it can also be used to measure the stiffness and damping rates of automotive components such as bushings, body mounts, and engine mounts.
Currently, researchers are studying the degradation of engine mounts during the life of a vehicle and electric motor mounting for home appliances. KRC also specialize in vehicle field evaluations, primarily in the areas of performance, mobility, and vehicle terrain dynamics. The test course at KRC consists of over 500 acres of test areas such as handling loops, a circular track and slopes. Special test conditions are created to satisfy customer requirements. A variety of terrain, combined with Upper Michigan's wide ranging weather conditions, allow for realistic field evaluations. The course is used year round for acceleration and braking, slope climbing, noise, vibration, obstacle crossing and endurance tests. Every winter, special ice and snow areas are constructed for ride and handling studies, anti-lock brake tests and tire traction evaluations.
For example, the test course is the site of a study on snowplow dynamics. In conjunction with Michigan Tech's Mechanical Engineering Department, researchers are investigating the dynamic measurement of snowplow forces on light and heavy-duty trucks, including the flow of snow off the snowplow. In addition, KRC is developing and testing methods of improving vehicle mobility in extreme conditions, such as flotation devices for the U.S. Army's 5-ton truck and ice cleats for the M1 Abrams tank.
KRC is currently developing a quieter sprocket for the M1 tank and has used the test course to conduct noise measurements. KRC constructs special test courses to meet the customer's needs. Our off-road course can be used to test traction control systems and the durability of axle components.
The Institute of Snow Research was founded in 1984 to capitalize on KRC's unique knowledge of snow mechanics. The broad scope of ISR's work takes researchers from the cold room laboratories of KRC to the bottom of the Earth.
The Institute of Snow Research was instrumental in an international study based in Antarctica that led to standardized methods of characterizing and strengthening snow for use as a construction material. The researchers' discoveries have applications ranging from building snow roads and runways in Antarctica, to ski and snowmobile trails here at home.
The Keweenaw Research Center is involved in the design and patent of a new snowmobile trail groomer, which will soon be released for production. KRC is also helping develop sign standards for recreational snowmobile trails in an effort to improve traffic safety. Other research may result in safer winter driving conditions on roads and airport runways throughout the Snowbelt. KRC engineers are studying snow/ground and snow/vehicle dynamics, determining how de-icing and anti-icing compounds can be used most effectively. KRC is also investigating environmentally sound road-clearing alternatives to the traditional sand and salt. This is especially important to sensitive areas such as bridges, watersheds, and ecologically fragile areas, where the use of road salt or other damaging chemicals must be reduced or eliminated.
Non-biased testing and research by experienced and creative scientists, modern facilities and personalized attention; that's what you'll find at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center.
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