Students inspired by massive manufacturing technology event

By University Communications
October 16, 2014
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Photo: Courtney Schimek, a manufacturing engineering student.

McCormick Place, one of the largest exhibition halls in the country, was transformed into the manufacturing center of the world during the International Manufacturing Technology Show in September in Chicago.

Courtney Schimek viewed the 1.2 million square feet of display space as a giant classroom where she learned valuable lessons about the career she’ll soon pursue.

Schimek, joined by 14 other students and four instructors from University of Wisconsin-Stout, returned to campus with a new perspective on manufacturing.

“I know I will have to continue learning for the rest of my life to keep up with all of the improvements in technologies,” she said. “There are way more tooling companies out there than I realized.”

Schimek, a senior from Owatonna, Minn., is majoring in manufacturing engineering, as are many of the other juniors and seniors who attended. Some also are majoring in engineering technology.

The 30th annual show drew more than 100,000 people from 112 countries. Schimek was amazed by the breadth and quality of the work being done by some of the 1,900 companies that exhibited.

The talk of the show, for example, was an electric car created on site with a 3D printer. The car was 3D-printed, assembled and driven away in a total of 44 hours.

Companies set up small factories to demonstrate their capabilities. Some exhibitor spaces were as large as the footprint of UW-Stout’s block-long Fryklund Hall, home of the manufacturing engineering and engineering technology programs.

“There were parts machined so perfectly that the pieces fit together even with all of the surfaces being curved. I saw a horse (design) machined on one machine and a rose on another. The surfaces had no lines from the tool at all, which anyone who has done machining knows that is very difficult to do,” Schimek said.

Schimek was impressed with the robotic machines. “I’ve wanted to be an engineer at a company that has (computer numerically controlled) machines for a while, but now I really want to work at a company that uses robots to help create parts also. Robots can do so many things and they will keep improving for years to come,” she said.

“There were robots that had sensors in them and could sort objects by color and place the parts into containers,” she said.

Job market strong

The show was too large for students and faculty to see in its entirety in several days.

“Students had a chance to see where manufacturing really is going and how much it affects our economy,” said instructor Glenn Bushendorf, who attended.

Professors returned with good news for students. “Most companies we talked to were short of manufacturing engineers,” said instructor Tom Kaufmann, who also attended. “It’s a good time to be in this field.”

Professors visited with representatives of companies that provide equipment for UW-Stout’s labs and learned about the latest industry technology, which students will be expected to use once they graduate.

Students paid their own way to attend; student admission to the show was free. They realized once they arrived that it was money well spent. “Their reaction to the show was jaw-dropping amazement,” Kaufmann said.

Schimek is an assistant in the manufacturing engineering lab in Fryklund Hall.

Another student who attended, Ben Nickolay, a senior from Minnetonka, Minn., is an assistant in the additive manufacturing lab. He has designed his own 3D printer, an example of additive manufacturing.

As a result of going to the show “I know that without a doubt additive manufacturing will be in my future,” Nickolay said. “The laser-based additive systems were shocking to see operating. DMG Mori had a system that used an additive process as well as a subtractive machining process, all in one machine.”

Nickolay and Joshua Miller, a senior from New Richmond, talked with numerous companies. Several companies expressed interest in conducting training with UW-Stout students. Others expressed interest in interviewing students for jobs.

Miller called the show “eye-opening,” especially the size of some of the large mills. “There are far more companies doing the same thing, or about the same thing, than I thought. This really opens the doors in the future for finding the best supplier for a project,” Miller said.

Along with Bushendorf and Kaufmann, the other UW-Stout instructors who attended were Assistant Professor Greg Slupe and Instrument Shop Coordinator Doug Maska.

UW-Stout’s manufacturing engineering and engineering technology programs are accredited by ABET, formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. For more information, go to www.uwstout.edu/programs/bsmfe or www.uwstout.edu/programs/bset