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MANHATTAN, Kansas — A new grant is expected to help one of Kansas’ leading universities acquire cutting-edge manufacturing tech, robotics and other industrial software tools to help train, educate and develop new digital capabilities for industries across the state.
Kansas State University’s Technology Development Institute will use a $2 million Economic Adjustment Assistance grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) to address key expansion areas within digital manufacturing.
Such focus areas include metal 3D printing, production level polymer 3D printing, and robots/cobots, said Jeff Tucker, executive director of the Technology Development Institute.
The grant is matched with a $500,000 commitment from K-State.
The Technology Development Institute is a technology-based economic development unit within K-State’s College of Engineering. It has 11 full-time staff that work with innovators, small-medium sized manufacturers, and corporations, in a variety of industries, every day that are seeking to develop/commercialize new technologies/products, solve engineering problems, and/or improve manufacturing processes through automation/process improvement, Tucker explained.
“As part of our daily operations, we are in regular contact with manufacturing companies and we are always seeking ways to help them to leverage advanced technologies to improve their competitiveness in the global marketplace,” he said. “We view this investment in digital manufacturing, equipment, tools and training by the EDA as a crucial step in helping meet the needs of regional manufacturers who are struggling to remain competitive in light of all the recent economic challenges.”
These new technologies can augment and enhance current manufacturing operations and enable companies to continue their efforts to drive down costs, proactively address labor shortages and increase supply chain resilience, Tucker said.
- Part prototyping as part of a new product or technology;
- Machining or fabrication of parts/subsystems to be used on new custom equipment;
- Automation of labor intensive or hazardous manufacturing operations;
- Use of these technologies to accelerate research projects being conducted by university faculty; and
- Demonstration of digital manufacturing technologies for companies seeking to bring these capabilities into their growing operations.
“The Kansas Framework for Growth identifies advanced manufacturing as a target sector, and Kansas’ recent economic development successes reflect the high priority we have placed on expanding manufacturing in the state,” said David Toland, Kansas lieutenant governor and director of the state Department of Commerce. “We are grateful for EDA’s support, which will provide Kansas manufacturers with access to the latest technology in order to compete and succeed in today’s business environment.”
The Technology Development Institute, a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration University Center and part of the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering, provides a broad range of engineering and business development services to both private industry and university researchers to advance the commercial readiness of new products or technologies, the university said in a press release.
In late 2020, the institute received a $2.1 million EDA grant to retool its metalworking prototyping and fabrication technologies (machining, welding, laser cutting, waterjet cutting, sawing, and press brake fabrication) and equip a new Additive Manufacturing (AM) studio with a variety of 3D printing polymer technologies. To support this EDA investment, the Technology Development Institute built an AM studio and totally renovated our manufacturing shop, both of which are located in a 22,000-square-foot facility off of the main campus.
“This was our first round of investing in new digital manufacturing technologies,” Tucker said. “We use these technologies to build product prototypes, develop proof of concept solutions to engineering problems and design/build custom equipment and automated solutions.”
Click here to read more about the institute’s efforts to help launch new technologies.
The Technology Development Institute also has an engineering internship program for K-State engineering students seeking work-based learning opportunities.
Through this internship program, students will have access to the new digital manufacturing technologies in the course of client project work, which will better prepare them for future career positions, Tucker said.
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