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Engineer garners innovation award

June 22, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Dr. John A. Patten, professor and chair of manufacturing engineering at Western Michigan University, has received one of six 2009 innovation awards from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Patten was recognized at the society's annual Conference June 7-9 in Philadelphia for developing an innovative micro-laser-assisted machining process.

Called μ-LAM, the process uses a laser directly coupled to a cutting tool to heat and thermally soften material to be machined, with the laser beam passing through the transparent diamond-cutting tool. The process is effective for machining non-ferrous materials that are hard and brittle, such as ceramics and semiconductors. It leaves minimal waste and substantially reduces tool wear.

The SME conference brings together representatives from medicine, aerospace, defense, automotive and other manufacturers to examines the state of manufacturing engineering as well as emerging trends, technologies and processes that will be used in the near future. During this year's event, Patten presented "Micro Laser Assisted Machining of Semiconductors & Ceramics" in one of the conference's four major workshops.

Patten, who came to WMU in 2003, is WMU's first chair of the manufacturing engineering department and first director of the Manufacturing Research Center. He also has become one of the University's best-known renewable energy advocates, and was instrumental in getting the wind turbine installed on the Parkview Campus.

His research interests focus on nanotechnology, computer integrated manufacturing, computer-aided design and compute-aided manufacturing, precision engineering, tribology, machining, simulation, and computer process control.

Prior to his joining WMU's faculty, Patten spent 18 years at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where he developed the school's manufacturing engineering technology program, established its Computer Integrated Manufacturing Laboratory and started its Precision Engineering program. He also was the catalyst behind the formation of the Carolinas' Consortium for Alternatively Fueled Electric Vehicles.

Patten earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical/manufacturing engineering from the General Motors Institute in 1976, a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Oakland University in 1982 and a doctoral degree in mechanical precision engineering from North Carolina State University in 1996.

Society of Manufacturing Engineers

SME is the world's leading professional society for those in manufacturing industries. It connects more than 500,000 engineers, executives and members in some 70 countries and is the premier source for knowledge, networking and skills development opportunities that help them advance their careers, companies and industries.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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