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U-M grad students awarded 2nd place in design competition


John UstickShiladitya Sen

John Ustick (left), Shiladitya Sen (right)

To the layperson, words such as “parallel-kinematic” and “XYZ flexure mechanism” and “nanopositioning” mean very little, but to University of Michigan students Shiladitya Sen and John Ustick, such words spell 2nd place in a major design competition.

The U-M design took 2nd place at the graduate level of the Student Mechanism Design Competition. Having made it through the first round, the team was invited to the 2011 ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference to present their design.  Held this year in Washington, DC, the conference is an opportunity for students to exhibit their design skills in front of “world-renowned experts in mechanism design,” as defined by the host.   

UstickSen Machine

Under the guidance of Professor Shorya Awtar, these two students work in the Precision Systems Design Laboratory. Shiladitya Sen specializes in research concerning Flexure Mechanism Design, and John Ustick is researching Nanopositioning topics, and by their powers combined they created a design for a novel parallel-kinematic XYZ flexure mechanism for use in large-range nanopositioning.

The goal of the design was to create frictionless guided motion along three perpendicular axes. Generally parallel-kinematic designs have a limited range of motion, but the novelty of Sen and Ustick’s design allows for a ten-fold increased range of motion along each of the axes. The modular design also allows for varied mounting of different sensors and actuators.

For more information, the competition website can be found here:


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