WMU News

Sigmund software introduced into engineering courses

May 12, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- WMU engineering students will learn how to translate the precise drawings produced by computer-aided-design programs into the real-world requirements of product manufacturing, thanks to a $1.92 million software award from Varatech of Holland, Mich.

Varatech, a leading provider of variation analysis software for the mainstream design market, announced today that it has awarded 100 seats of the company's Sigmund software for use in WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The award makes the school the only university in the nation with the ability to train future engineers to use the software, which provides a bridge between the virtual realm of CAD and the real world of manufacturing.

Sigmund software is designed to help companies increase product quality, reduce production costs and get their products to market sooner. It factors into CAD product designs a sense of some of the dimensional variations that are the inevitable result of the manufacturing process. The software helps engineers identify and correct for the most significant sources of those variations before the variations result in production problems.

"CAD is a wonderful tool--very crisp and precise," notes Dr. Mitchel Keil, a WMU assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering who has been working with Varatech officials on the project. "The problem with CAD is that students have the view that the real parts made from their CAD drawings will be just as precise. But they're not, because dimensional variations occur in every manufacturing process. Sigmund is a tool that integrates with CAD and gives you a sense of those variations. It makes a connection between CAD and the real world."

Sigmund will be integrated into a variety of degree programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, exposing a large number of engineering graduates to the innovative design tool. WMU and Varatech officials predict it will impact the employment prospects of future graduates.

"WMU is a great engineering school," says Robert Gardner, president of Varatech. "WMU graduates are employed by many industry leaders and Sigmund customers. WMU's decision to use

Sigmund as a primary teaching tool demonstrates the popularity of the software in the mainstream engineering industry. Companies are using Sigmund on a day-to-day basis and are recruiting graduates based on their knowledge of the software. We are proud to be a part of WMU's outstanding curriculum and are looking forward to supporting this campuswide implementation."

The software, which has recently been installed in the Computer-Aided Engineering Center in WMU's Kohrman Hall, will be used for such undergraduate courses as Designing for Production and Statistical Quality Control as well as the graduate level course, Advanced Quality Management.

Dr. David Lyth, WMU professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, says ease of use was a major factor in WMU's desire to use Sigmund in its engineering courses. "These courses are very intensive and there's not a lot of time to spend teaching students how to use software," Lyth notes. "With Sigmund, the learning curve is very short. Most of the students can train themselves how to use Sigmund with nothing more than the tutorials."

The addition of the software to the engineering curriculum will enhance the University's reputation for producing "job ready" engineers who are immediately productive when hired, according to Dr. Michael Atkins, chairperson of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

"Variation analysis isn't taught at most universities, but is widely used in industry," he says. "We are pleased that our students will receive exposure to an engineering tool that is being used by industry professionals around the world."

Keil says his students will benefit from getting a better sense of how some real-world assembly factors can impact their design work. He notes that Sigmund is most effective when used early in the development of a product--before the design is finalized--allowing design engineers and their production counterparts to prevent costly delays from modifications that are done as the product moves into manufacturing.

"Parts can be dimensionally correct, yet variations in those parts can cause assemblies to build out of specification," Keil says. "This software helps to take those variations into account to adjust a design before production tooling has to be committed."

While WMU has begun using Sigmund in conjunction with its SolidWorks 3D CAD software, the potential exists for future grants of Sigmund for use with the school's Pro/Engineer and other major CAD systems.

About Varatech

Varatech is one of the leading technical engineering consulting firms in Michigan. Specializing in dimensional control as well as product and software development, Varatech has experience in a broad number of industries. For more information regarding Varatech's products and services, visit Varatech's Web site at www.varatech.com or call (616) 393-6408.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400