The Physics Student Machine Shop has been an integral and necessary part of experimental research within the department for more than 100 years – providing hands-on opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to learn how to safely operate the high-precision machinery and equipment needed to manufacture the complex components of their projects, apparatuses, and instrumentation.
A Modern Day Manufacturing Facility
The Physics Student Machine Shop is one of three student accessible machine shops on the UC Berkeley campus. The others are located in Mechanical Engineering’s Etcheverry Hall and in Jacobs Hall, the home of The Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation. Our shop consists of the common machine tools that are found in most machine shops: drill presses, bandsaws, grinders, sanders, sheet metal punching, cutting and bending equipment, lathes, and milling machines. Here students will learn the basics of operation and capabilities of each machine and apply this knowledge to the designs of their components.
Safety is paramount in all that we do, therefore, all shop users must complete our comprehensive Student Machine Shop safety training program before being allowed to come in and use the machine shop.
Updates to the Student Machine Shop
The shop is in the midst of a revitalization campaign which will continue over the next several years. Recent additions to the Physics Student Machine Shop are: 2 Sharp 1340VS manual engine lathes, a Stratasys F170 3D printer, a Haas Super Mini Mill 2 CNC Vertical Machining Center, a Kent Vertical Knee Mill with an Accu-Rite MillPwr G2 controller, a Clausing KC1016VS horizontal bandsaw, 2 student computer workstations and 2 student laptops. We have also added 3D solid modeling CAD/CAM programs for part design and CNC toolpath generation to our computers and laptops for student use. Our most recent and future updates will help ensure that our students have access to today’s modern equipment, technologies, and the latest manufacturing methods to better align them with the quality research being conducted here at Berkeley Physics and other world-class institutions.
To contact the Student Shop Instructor, Jesse Lopez, call (510) 642-2496, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheng says when she works with fellow students who might be new to the shop, "We always start out by reviewing a machine’s manual so there’s a better understanding of how it works. Then, Jesse [Jesse Lopez], the shop manager, will show the student how to write code for the CNC machine."
Typical student projects in the shop, she says, involve a piece of equipment in a professor’s lab—say an optics component—that breaks but a replacement from the manufacturer would take too long or cost too much to obtain.
Instead, "It can be fairly straightforward for the student to come in the shop and make the replacement part themselves. It can be something like a piece of glass for a lens, metal pieces to align the glass—or some weird part that needs to be fixed," Cheng says.
And while Cheng enjoys helping fellow students in the machine shop, there’s a personal benefit, too:
"I am in a rocketry club on campus called Space Enterprise Berkeley. We’re trying to develop a liquid-propellant rocket engine. Some of the parts we design ourselves and it would be too expensive to ask a professional machinist to make it, so I can use some of my time at the shop to make those components." Asked how her machine shop chops might bear on future plans, Cheng says, "For grad school, I am leaning more towards experimental physics. Before, I thought I might like theory but seeing how you can design and manufacture components. experimental physics sounds really fun."