Physics Machine Shop Policies
Last Updated: July 24, 2023
How the Physics Machine Shop serves research and educational activities
The Physics Machine Shop is a vital resource for the research and educational missions of the Department of Physics and other engineering and science departments at Montana State University. Its purpose is to provide just-in-time machining capabilities through immediate, on-site access to precision machining equipment for educators, students, and researchers. Users of the machine shop use its resources to create individual (or very low volumes of) custom parts or repair parts for devices that are critical for educational laboratories, in-class demonstrations, and experiments in state-of-the-art research programs.
The capabilities provided by the Physics Machine Shop are intended to fill needs that are not replaceable by off-campus machine shops. External machine shops have long lead times, expensive hourly rates, limited capacity to tackle small projects (e.g. small modifications to parts, rough machining operations, etc.) limited capacity for highly specialized and time-consuming tasks, and do not permit students access for training or to develop new techniques for new materials. The Physics Machine Shop enables educators and researchers to independently tackle small and/or highly specialized fabrication and engineering projects on short timescale and for a minimal cost.
Gaining access to the machine shop
Usage of the resources supplied by the Physics Machine Shop requires payment of an access fee that provides funding for the Machine Shop Supervisor position and routine maintenance of the shop and equipment.
To initiate gaining access to the machine shop, contact the Machine Shop Supervisor who will help setup billing and coordinate the mandatory training.
For research activities, there are three ways that individuals (students, postdoctoral researchers, staff, and faculty) who are affiliated with a faculty-led research group can gain access to the Physics Machine Shop.
- Annual group/program access fee: a research group or research program may pay an annual access fee each academic year.
- The annual fee will be collected on August 1 of each year, providing access through July 30 of the following year.
- Access fees can be paid at any point for access through July 30 but will not be prorated.
- The access fee will provide unlimited annual access for a PI and up to 4 individuals for the academic year.
- The access fee will provide reasonable usage of consumable resources (stock, screws, etc.) in the machine shop.
- Individuals covered by the access fee can be designated each semester (Fall, Spring, and Summer).
- The designated individuals can be changed each semester.
- Access fees will be waived for new faculty members who are within three years of their first appointment date at MSU.
- Schedule of annual access fees:
- The access fee for AY23/24 is expected to be $3360
- The anticipated annual access fee for AY24/25 is expected to be $3528
- The anticipated annual access fee for AY25/26 is expected to be $3705
- Hourly usage rate: For small project needs, individuals affiliated with an established research group
on campus may use the machine shop at an hourly rate.
- The current hourly rate is $75/hour/person.
- Individuals will be required to specify the MSU index before gaining access.
- The provided index will be billed monthly by the Department of Physics.
- Negotiated access: under exceptional circumstances that are not adequately addressed by the Annual access fee or hourly usage rate, access may be negotiated with the Machine Shop Committee and the Head of the Department of Physics.
All individuals must complete basic safety training and equipment training provided by the Machine Shop Supervisor before being granted access to the Physics Machine Shop.
At the sole discretion of the machine shop supervisor, machinging services can be provided to researchers at Montana State University. The current rate for these services is $35/hour with a minimum of one hour.
Role and responsibilities of the machine shop supervisor
The machine shop supervisor is essential to sustain the above support of research and educational activities. The machine shop supervisor performs the following tasks:
- Provides training to students, postdocs, research staff, and principal investigators on the safe and responsible operation of the equipment in the machine shop
- Maintains the organization and cleanliness of the shop
- Maintains the equipment and replenishes supplies
- Provides design and machining consultation for students, postdocs, research staff, and principal investigators
- Ensures equipment is operated safely at all time
- Maintains the list of authorized users and access privileges
- Track safety violations and revoke access
General rules for using the machine shop
All users of the Physics Machine Shop are expected to obey this general set of rules to ensure safety and the maintenance of the equipment. Repeated violation of any of these rules may result in a loss of access to the Physics Machine Shop.
- All users must obey all safety guidelines of the machine shop at all times.
- All users must obey the instructions of the Machine Shop Supervisor at all times.
- All users must obtain authorization from the Machine Shop Supervisor before using any machine in the machine shop.
- All users must use the equipment in a manner that is approved by the machine shop supervisor and consistent with provided training materials.
- If a user wants operate any machine in a unfamiliar or non-standard manner that is not covered in the training, the user must first consult the Machine Shop Supervisor and obtain permission and training.
- All users must clean the areas that they use immediately upon completing their work at a minimum frequency of once per day.
- All users must return small tools, parts, and unused consumables to their proper locations.
- Work areas must be left in a clean and orderly state during and after work on a project.
- No user is allowed to grant access to the machine shop to unauthorized users.
- Prolonged use of a specific machine for longer than a single work day must be approved by the machine shop supervisor and communicated to the rest of the machine shop users with physical signage that provides (1) name and contact information (email and phone number) of the user and (2) the anticipated completion date.
- A user may not interrupt an ongoing project by removing a part or tooling from a machine without consent of the Machine Shop Supervisor or the person whose job it is.
- Damage to the equipment must be immediately reported to the machine shop supervisor and communicated to the rest of the users with a physical sign that (1) accurately describes the damage and (2) provides the name and contact information (email and phone number) of the user who caused the damage.
- Defective or inoperable equipment must be immediately reported to the machine shop supervisor and the rest of the users with a physical sign that (1) accurately describes the damage and (2) provides the name and contact information (email and phone number) of the user who identified the problem.
- Depletion of a consumable resource must be immediately reported to the machine shop supervisor.
- Respect other users of the Physics Machine Shop.
Violations of rules and losing access to the machine shop
If a user repeatedly violates any of the above rules, their access to the machine shop will be revoked. The Machine Shop Supervisor is responsible for tracking rule violations and all users are responsible for reporting. The Machine Shop Supervisor, at their discretion, may revoke shop-use privileges and access at any time.
Appeal for the termination of access: A user may appeal the decision to terminate access in writing directly to the machine shop committee and department head. The appeal will be considered and voted upon by the machine shop committee. The final decision will be made by a majority vote of the committee on whether to restore access or not to the user.
Annual Review of Machine Shop Operations and Policies
At the end of each spring semester in May, the Shop, Space and Service Committee in the Department of Physics will solicit feedback from the users of the Physics Machine Shop and review the operations and policies. Based on the feedback of the users, the committee will implement policy changes (as they are needed and as the committee is able) to continually improve the service provided by the Physics Machine Shop to its users.