AMHERST, Mass. – More than 120 people from dozens of advanced and precision manufacturing firms, research and development companies, commercial lenders and community colleges crowded into the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) on June 30 to learn first-hand about how its newly opened core facilities can help them to boost the state’s manufacturing economy.
Secretary Jay Ash of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Economic Development hailed the new campus facilities, its researchers and staff for fostering “a culture and environment here that supports talent and innovation throughout the state.” He said, “Time and again, you deliver,” in helping to advance the Baker administration’s goals of revitalizing communities, growing business and helping people to prosper. “You are part of all three,” he added. “We are happy to invest in what you are doing here at UMass.”
Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy pointed to the Commonwealth’s long history of pioneering precision manufacturing firms and said the campus intends to partner with industry to support their continued success going forward. “When Massachusetts manufacturers are successful, the whole state benefits,” he noted.
IALS Director Peter Reinhart, with James Capistran, executive director of the UMass Innovation Institute, and Andrew Vinard, director of IALS core facilities, said product designers, research engineers and others from firms such as Raytheon, Pratt & Whitney, Saint-Gobain, General Dynamics and General Electric, as well as from scores of smaller precision and advanced manufacturing firms in the Berkshires, western Massachusetts and the nation attended.
The visitors toured four newly opened core facilities that offer additive manufacturing, 3D metal and plastic printing, roll-to-roll manufacturing, device characterization, materials testing, modeling, simulation, computer-assisted design and other analytical core research facilities that will now be available for advanced manufacturers to test designs and prototypes, for example, that could lead to a new product, land a new customer and add jobs, Capistran explained.
He said, “We want all the precision manufacturers and related industry in the state to know that we are open for business. Today they can see for themselves what we have to offer.”
In remarks at the event, Kristen Carlson, president of Peerless Precision, Inc. of Westfield and president of the Western Massachusetts chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, noted there are more than 200 precision manufacturing firms in the state’s four western counties. They supply many thousands of high-quality precision parts each year to the aircraft, aerospace, medical device, fine finishing, robotics and many other industries.
Increasingly, she added, this requires sophisticated design and small batch production of customized components made on extremely high-tech equipment. “Ten millionths of an inch can make all the difference in the world in terms of how fuel is flowing into an engine,” she said. Among many other services, the IALS core facilities will assist in design and testing to such standards. “I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is to have such innovation centers available to us. I am thrilled to see UMass expand the resources available to us,” Carlson said.
Matthew Koons of Boyd Technologies in Lee said that advanced manufacturers in the state and across the nation look to Massachusetts for new talent and workforce development. “Customers come to us with ideas,” he said, and many times these require testing and experimentation. “This kind of facility allows us to expand our ability to translate ideas into a product, and more quickly, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Anything that speeds the process and allows more rapid innovation is very valuable.”
Oh-Hun Kwon, director of external relations for Saint-Gobain’s Northboro R&D Center, said that the global construction and high-performance materials giant appreciates the access to new talent it finds at UMass Amherst. “We’ve enjoyed a long-term relationship with UMass for almost ten years now,” he noted. “We find the faculty and facilities are top-notch, and we find them a powerful partner in meeting many technical challenges.”