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Purdue Opens New Manufacturing Design Laboratory

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Inside Purdue University's new Manufacturing Design Laboratory, robots fabricate pieces, then hand them off to one another for testing – all without humans touching the parts. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)

What has been called Industry 4.0 is crashing into the manufacturing industry leaving businesses working to find ways to bring the newest technology into its production.

Purdue University is expanding research into advanced manufacturing with a new laboratory. University and state leaders unveiled a facility Wednesday they hope will bring Indiana to the forefront of digital manufacturing.

Last year’s Indiana Manufacturers Survey found that industry leaders in the state were shifting their top priority from workforce development to improving equipment and technology in their facilities. 

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger says as a state that depends heavily on its manufacturing sector, this facility is important for the state to stay modern.

“For us to keep on that cutting edge and to be the leader in manufacturing in America, if not the world, we have to keep going toward these new solutions and have to keep exploring that next frontier,” says Schellinger.

Since many smaller companies don’t have the cash to do much research and development, Purdue will foot the bill in hopes of creating new tech that companies will want to buy.

Purdue is partnering with the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, or IACMI on the facility. IACMI CEO John Hopkins says it will help the businesses his organization works with learn and implement new technology.

“Industry 4.0 is very much a part of especially the large scale OEM manufacturing base now, and it needs to be more fully deployed throughout the supply chain, like the small to medium-size companies that make up the majority of the manufacturing base,” he says.

Purdue engineering graduate student Eric Kozikowski says the new lab will also let students like him test the newest manufacturing equipment in the industry.

“It also allows us to kind of move forward from here, see what we have available to us now and see how we can improve that technology and bring it to industry and test and prepare industry for what’s coming ahead,” says Kozikowski.

Phase one of the facility is complete with the last two phases expected to be finished by July.

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