Olivet Nazarene University Senior Project Partnership

Olivet Nazarene University Senior Project Partnership

April 27, 2023

Holland has been home to Olivet Nazarene alum, with their most recent being Kevin Vroman, Mechanical Design Engineer, who interned with us in the Summer of 2022. As a recent graduate, Kevin and Eric Wright, Mechanical Design Supervisor, partnered with Olivet and three of their students for their senior design project. Around the same time that Olivet was looking to partner with a company for their senior design project, Holland was looking for a better solution for our shear dies for our flash-butt welding services. These three students worked hand in hand with our engineering team for two semesters and challenged the students on a solution to make a more easily repairable and durable shear die.

A shear die is a tool that is used after the weld has been made to remove the slag from the rail. This is done immediately after the weld has been made while the rail is still hot. This both acts to clean up the excess material, as well as providing a secondary forging operation on the rail. The result is a weld that has almost identical material properties as the surrounding rail, with a clean profile that requires minimal grinding to finish. Shear dies are specific to the size of rail that is being welded (136, 115, 110, etc.) They are hand operated and must be able to be added and removed from the rail by one worker in a few seconds.


Shear dies are used in a very volatile, high temperature, high stress environment. During the welding process they are located only a few inches away from the weld itself. Additionally, when shearing, they experience a high amount of force as they shear the excess weld material away. This leads to them being a very high wear item, that are also costly to replace. Many prototypes have been tried in the past, yet none have proven to be better than the current design.

This week Nolan Paape, Nathan Marks and Seth Beyer at Olivet presented their research to our engineers with their concepts and potential solutions for shear dies. We’re so appreciative to Olivet for allowing us to partner with these seniors and to the students for putting so much effort into helping us find a solution.

Holland is dedicated to introducing current students and graduates to the rail industry to help promote the next generation of railroaders. If your college or university is interested in partnering with Holland, please reach out to our Human Resources team!