Jan. 7, 2000
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University engineering students are starting the winter semester this week armed with nearly $9 million in virtual manufacturing software that will allow them to go from design to actual product assembly without ever leaving the classroom.
Tecnomatix Technologies Inc. of Novi, Mich., an international supplier of manufacturing systems software for many of the world's leading manufacturers, has awarded 30 work stations of its Enterprise Manufacturing Solutions to WMU's Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Each is equipped with five of the firm's leading software solutions. The software is valued at $8.96 million.
The arrangement marks the first partnership of this size between the firm and any college or university in the nation. It will mean WMU engineering students will have unparalleled access to manufacturing engineering software currently in use in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, robotics and utilities industries. It also will mean faculty members will have increased research capabilities in key manufacturing areas.
"Our purpose is to create an awareness for Tecnomatix and our solutions in the academy and to help the University provide training in the technology that we believe will play a key role in students' future roles in industry and research," says Eli Dahan, director of marketing for Tecnomatix. "We are working with several other universities around the nation to help them integrate this technology into their programs, but our contacts at WMU have been the most enthusiastic and proactive so far and we have approved all of their software requests. We believe WMU will serve as a model for other institutions as they use this technology for education and research."
"Public/private partnerships such as this enable us to acquire the kind of expensive, cutting-edge technology that sets our programs and their graduates apart from those of other universities," says WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "In addition, such infusions of technology allow our faculty and student researchers to engage in research that can return dividends to private industry."
The Tecnomatix Enterprise Manufacturing Solutions that have come to WMU as part of the award are VALISYS, DYNAMO, ROBCAD and ROBCAD Arc, SIMPLE++, and PART. They provide manufacturing simulation with three-dimensional visualization effects for processes that include design of manufacturing plants, work cells and assembly lines; design and verification of product assembly, packaging and maintenance processes; computer-aided engineering of manufacturing processes such as arc-welding; and the definition, prediction and analysis of manufacturing tolerances.
"These software solutions will dramatically increase instructional and research capabilities in the area of virtual manufacturing within the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences," says Dr. Tarun Gupta, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, who developed the agreement with Tecnomatix. "There are endless possibilities for the use of computers to train engineers in the kind of decision-making skills needed in manufacturing. These software products open those possibilities to our students."
Gupta, who is director of the college's Computer-Integrated Manufacturing Laboratory, says industry also will benefit from the arrangement because the existence of the software on campus will significantly increase capacity for conducting industry-sponsored research and allow the University to offer seminars and training sessions on the state-of-the-art production tools in a virtual environment. Michigan industry also will have, for the first time, access to young engineers who graduate with experience in the use of such technology.
Since word of the new software started to spread in the fall, Gupta notes, students have been inquiring about whether the products are installed and ready for them to use. Many, he says, are eager to become fluent in use of the software before they graduate. And some employers who have become aware of the development also have begun making inquiries about hiring graduates who have experience with the products.
"We had not even started to use this in our classes when I started receiving calls from people wanting to know how soon they can hire students with experience in this technology," Gupta says. He notes that two of the products were installed and ready for use by a graduate class in the fall.
The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 1998 entered into several similar arrangements that brought the University sophisticated engineering software products that cover a variety of engineering processes. The new Tecnomatix software gives students and faculty unmatched opportunities to create a detailed virtual factory within that framework that can be used to address specific engineering issues related to the manufacturing process.
Dr. Michael Atkins, chairperson of the Department of Manufacturing Engineering, says that, together, the products WMU student engineers now use put them in a unique position to be productive immediately after they graduate.
"We aren't just teaching students about engineering," Atkins says, "We're allowing them to practice engineering as they will practice it in industry. The tools we have now are advanced by current industry standards, but they will be in use when our students are ready for jobs. Instead of lagging behind the current practice of the profession, we are now on the cutting edge."
The Tecnomatix software now at WMU is used by such automotive firms as DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors and Volvo; aerospace firms such as Boeing, British Aerospace, Learjet, and Pratt & Whitney; consumer and electronics firms like Kodak, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba; and heavy equipment companies such as John Deere and Hitachi Machinery.
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
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