By Anna Katherine Underwood. Photography by Tory Salvador.
If you love the Tennessee Vols and cheese, you could have a new addition to your favorite game day platter this fall.
Professor Floyd Ostrowski headed up the project along with his student John Hendershott. The duo was contacted by the UT Department of Food Science, which needed help designing and developing a method of shaping cheese into the Power T.
The original goal of the project was to collaborate with Food Science to design a method to produce cheese in blocks that displayed the Power T logo in the novel design of an orange and white combination. This method would allow local company Sweetwater Valley Farms to produce cheese for UT to sell in support of Food Science.
“I met with Mr. Ostrowski to discuss the application and potential methods of processing the cheese to reach the desired final product of a white Power T inside an orange perimeter and an orange Power T inside a white perimeter,” said Hendershott.
The process of setting up how to correctly cut the cheese proved difficult and had some twists and turns along the way, but the best idea proved to be 3D printing.
“The design was based on the idea of a cookie cutter to cut the Power T out of white and orange blocks,” said Hendershott. “We decided this design was the best course of action and commissioned the manufacturing of a stainless steel cheese cutter locally in Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge Tool along with Engineering and Extrude Hone AFM (located in California) generously donated their time and resources in making the Power T cheese cutter.”
Once the tools were acquired, there were still several steps in the process of figuring out how to get the Power T into the cheese both safely and correctly.
“In food manufacturing, material choice is very important,” said Hendershott. “Materials must be easily cleaned and must be made of approved materials to prevent bacteria growth. For our application, we chose stainless steel for our final design. With the strength and rigidity of stainless steel being much greater than 3D-printed plastic, we are able to make the walls much thinner. With this in mind, I designed the walls to be thicker in the 3d printed models before making the final 3D model for the stainless steel design. In addition, I designed and 3D-printed a piece to help push the cheese out of the cutter after pressing the cutter into the cheese block.”
Hendershott was thankful for his background in ISE, and to Ostrowski, for helping him make this project a success.
“As an industrial engineer, I cannot execute a project without thinking about how to make the process as ergonomic, accurate, and time saving as possible,” he said. “The perspective gained from many of my IE classes allowed me to break down constraints and use each resource to propel the team forward through the project.”
Hendershott found the opportunity to collaborate with faculty such as Ostrowski, as well as businesses such as Oak Ridge Tool and Engineering to be challenging, motivating, and rewarding.
“In addition, being a student opened doors and brought unparalleled access to and support from these resources to create a product at the highest level of design,” explained Hendershott.
Food Science has plans for the cheese to be sold on UT game days and on campus in support of student scholarships so they can further expand and create more exciting opportunities like this project for students and fans alike.