Q&A with Benjamin Stepanian, Mechanical Engineer at United Aircraft Technologies (UAT)
We sat down with Ben Stepanian to discuss his work in IoT solutions for aircraft wiring and how he ultimately aspires to make the world a safe, ethical, and sustainable place.
1. Hello, Ben! Tell us about UAT and what you do for them.
Hi there! United Aircraft Technologies (UAT) produces advanced electrical wiring solutions for both fixed wing and vertical lift aircraft. We produce lightweight, user-friendly, wire bundle fastening solutions. My job as a Mechanical Engineer at UAT is to research, design, and test wire clamps, mounts, attachments, and accessories, while considering manufacturing requirements, user experience, product environment, and overall function and performance.
2. How does your work at UAT support your personal aspiration of “making the world a safe, ethical, and sustainable place?”
There’s a lot that’s often overlooked when it comes to aircraft wiring or even wiring in general. In aircraft wiring, there can be hundreds of miles of wiring alone. The wiring standards, fastening methods, and logistics of cable routing is a continuous improvement process. At UAT, we aim to improve those standards for not only the reliability of an aircraft, but to ease the pains that come with wiring maintenance. Daryian Rhysing founded the company based on his background as an US Army veteran with over 10 years of experience in the military aviation maintenance field. With our novel technology, we can reduce the down-time and weight of an aircraft. Our clamps are made from thermoplastic and can reduce weight by hundreds of pounds thus reducing emissions and improving efficiency.
3. One of your mottos is “Keep things from going obsolete.” Tell us more about that philosophy.
“Keeping things from going obsolete” stems back from old sayings such as, “design it right the first time” or “measure twice, cut once.” My father Stephen taught me simple philosophies like that. Engineers love simple solutions, but it is important to make a simple solution last. To make something robust, the most important aspect is laying out a great foundation. With a good foundation, features can be changed, replaced, and re-iterated without rendering the product useless.
4. How did you first learn about Additive Manufacturing (AM) and what do you think is most interesting about this technology?
I first learned about AM in high school. Our tech department had an FDM machine that students used to make prototype prosthetics. There was also plenty of material on social media. In college, I learned about how crucial AM is to the future of the engineering industry. What I find most interesting about AM is the speed at which parts can be produced and the intricate geometry that can be achieved by no other method of manufacturing. Also, a tremendous range of products across every industry can be built in today’s build volumes, which is also really interesting.
5. You have worked closely with Seurat in evaluating the feasibility of Area Printing for production of molds to make your next-generation clamp device. Tell us more about that project.
Every business is dealing with a strained supply chain influenced by the global pandemic. The cost of manufacturing has increased. Being a start-up, UAT is always looking for the most cost-effective way to manufacture. For injection molded thermoplastics, steel tooling for a single cavity, pre-production mold can be upwards of over $50,000. Thanks to Seurat and their capabilities, UAT and industries alike can leverage this technology to produce parts faster with a significantly lower cost. What caught my eye about Area Printing was the density of the parts that can be achieved. Metal 3D printed injection mold tools have been achieved before with LPBF technology, but for tools that need to be heated for thermoplastic molding, the smallest discrepancies in porosity inside a mold cavity can cause issues. I think that Seurat can reduce manufacturing costs for injection mold tools by more than a factor of 10.
6. Why did you decide to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering?
I have always had a curious mind. Naturally, I’ve always wanted to know how things work. But, I wasn’t always necessarily motivated. One of my High School teachers even told me that I wouldn’t get into Engineering school. Things changed once college started and I was able to connect the dots and improve my focus. The world will always need engineers. I’m proud that this is a skill set that I can take with me anywhere in the world.
United Aircraft Technologies is a recent winner of the Army Applied SBIR Program and was also awarded a contract with the US Air Force under the Agility Prime eVTOL Initiative.