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ECU unveils advanced manufacturing equipment

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East Carolina Universtiy and Wells Fargo officials unveiled new, advanced manufacturing equipment in the High Bay Laboratory inside the Science and Technology building at ECU, Monday.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology has officially launched the first phase of an effort to create a unique, advanced-manufacturing lab in the high bay of the Science and Technology Building.

ECU officials unveiled new state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment during a celebration on Monday morning at the Caterpillar/Gregory Poole Construction Management High Bay Laboratory on campus. 

Students and industry representatives demonstrated the use of two new Haas computer numerical control (CNC) lathes and two Haas CNC mills, which were funded in part by a $100,000 contribution from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

The technology allows for students to learn about robotics, 3D printing, production line and warehousing technologies — and the cybersecurity necessary to ensure the integrity of internet-connected manufacturing operations.

A spokesman from Wells Fargo emphasized the importance of investing in education. 

“Wells Fargo is proud to continue our support for East Carolina University and their efforts to create cutting edge facilities that will help prepare their students for success,” said Thomas Cline, region vice president and an ECU graduate. “We share the belief that supporting education is one of the most important investments we can make in our country’s future. We know the return on an investment in a great education far exceeds those from the best mutual funds.”

Chancellor Cecil Staton said the lab will allow engineering students to be successful and prepared for the workforce.    

“We are maximizing student success by providing our students with coursework and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees, including hands-on experience with these machines, that translates directly into high-paying jobs and fulfilling careers in eastern North Carolina,” Staton said.

The lab also will serve the public and lead regional transformation by developing a highly skilled workforce for the region and providing a collaborative space for industry partners to develop new products and manufacturing processes, he said.  

Harry Ploehn, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology said the machines will add a new dimension to students’ learning opportunities.

“What this means for us, for ECU and the college of engineering and technology is we really begin to have a laboratory where our students can do not only book learning to get the theory but they can have practical hands-on experience with cutting-edge equipment that’s used in today’s advanced manufacturing,” Ploehn said.  

The college of engineering and technology is forming an advanced manufacturing advisory board to help the college understand the industry’s needs and provide advice on future investments in equipment and educational programs, he said.

“Our industry partners, now and in the future, need engineers, technologists and computer scientists with not only a solid theoretical foundation but also practical hands-on experience with cutting-edge advanced manufacturing technology,” Ploehn said. 

Ploehn also highlighted ECU being recognized by the National Security Agency and how advanced manufacturing plays a role.  

“By integrating our established strength in cybersecurity education and training with this new advanced manufacturing initiative, we will help our graduates and industry partners address one of the greatest concerns facing advanced manufacturing: the cybersecurity of internet-connected manufacturing processes, and the security and integrity of manufacturing process data and intellectual property,” he said.

The new machines unveiled on Monday represent ECU’s commitment to providing that workforce of the future, Ploehn said.

Staton said the lab would not be possible without community partnerships.  

“We’re very grateful to Wells Fargo for this partnership and the gift which makes this possible,” Staton said. “It’s important that our students have access to the latest technology and the kind of technology they’re going to find when they go into the workforce.   

“Today we are here to celebrate Wells Fargo for this wonderful gift that will be transformational in the education of our students,” he said.       

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