What you’re missing: Applied Engineering Center houses state of the art equipment

Meredith Harris

Engineering Department Chair Zane Mitchell said his favorite piece of equipment in the Applied Engineering Center is the holographic monitor.

“I think it represents how far technology has come in a very short period of time,” he said.

The machine works the same way a 3D television does.

Similar technology 20 years ago would have cost around $5 million, and would have had at least three people operating it around the clock, he said.

Today, it costs $5,000 dollars and can be plugged into any computer.

The state of the art equipment in the Applied Engineering Center, which officially opened its doors Sept. 13, will allow students to learn hands on. The equipment will serve students majoring in engineering, advanced manufacturing and industrial supervision.

Classes are being held in the new facility this semester.

The equipment is “outstanding” for a university to have, said Keith Benedict, engineering instructor.

“The new building is literally a small factory,” he said.

Benedict said instructors and professors in the department now have to integrate the equipment into their classes.

They already had some of the equipment, but now they have three or four pieces of equipment compared to the one piece of equipment they had before, he said.

USI is hoping the Center will draw companies to Evansville because the students will be well-trained and readily available for high paying, technical jobs, Benedict said.

The engineering program is accredited, but when it comes up for reaccreditation, the new technology will help because accreditors will see that USI students know how to use the equipment, he said.

Benedict said USI is planning to apply for accreditation for the advanced manufacturing and industrial supervision degrees programs in the next year or two.

Another piece of equipment that will aid students’ learning is the 3D printer, which is housed in the Precision Measurements Lab.

Advanced Manufacturing Program Coordinator Kevin Nelson said, traditionally, manufacturing is subtractive manufacturing, which is when pieces of a material are chipped away to make an object.

The 3D printing software takes an object and splits it into layers, and then it takes molten plastic and adds one layer at a time to form a model.

This makes it quicker and less expensive because the parts do not need to be sent out to a machine shop to be made, Nelson said.

The 3D printer will be used to see if parts fit well together, or if they need to go back and redesign parts, he said. If the original design does not work, then it can be redesigned and ran through the printer again.

The Automation Lab houses a Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS).

The FMS is a long machine comprised of two belts running parallel to each other and a robot in the center in a clear blue, plastic enclosure.

The belts can be blocked off so a part, on a palette, can be moved around to the opposite belt.

The palettes can be programmed to stop at different stations where a human or a robot could add to the part.

Nelson said they are planning on using the FMS in simulation classes. With the FMS, the classes can model how many parts per hour the machine can make.