Digital Lab Expands Partnerships

The CIRAS Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy recently added two new partners, Pratum, an information security company, and ProPlanner, specialists in tools for complex assembly manufacturing.

ProPlanner president David Sly (left) and CIRAS staff member Kirk Haaland (right) demonstrate the capabilities of ProPlanner software.

“Partnerships are key to our efforts to derisk technology adoption for Iowa companies,” said Chris Hill, CIRAS program director. “Our technology partners play a key part in our support by expanding the breadth and depth of technologies we can showcase. “

As part of their partnership, ProPlanner moved next to the lab and integrated their workstations with labbased equipment and devices. This gives lab visitors access to ProPlanner capabilities including bar code scanners, torque tools, and other equipment that runs the company’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

Customers rely on MES to determine the most efficient manufacturing and assembly process to create a specific unit.

“Modified products can be put into production in days, instead of weeks and months,” explained Dave Sly, ProPlanner president. “We’re excited to show lab visitors just how that’s done.”

The Digital Manufacturing Lab opened in September 2019 with substantial support from Alliant Energy and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Current technologies include robots, wearable sensors, 3D printers, scanners, smart cameras, exoskeletons, and more. The lab recently added a workstation and software that provides instructions for complex assembly and associated data collection.

A shared vision of utilizing technology to improve competitiveness of Iowa manufacturers is the primary reason companies are partnering with the lab.

“The lab gives companies a chance to see how we can help them use automation to improve their processes, and it does it in an environment that reduces any anxiety or fear of the unknown,” said Brad Vorrie, Ramco Innovations application engineering manager.

Ramco donated a $25,000 selective compliance articulated robot arm (SCARA) designed to automate tedious, repetitive tasks like assembly operations. The West Des Moines company has expanded their partnership to include collaboration on webinars and inperson seminars.

Experimenting in a lowrisk environment has led to an investment in technology by several companies. Iowa Customs, a provider of aftermarket customized truck accessories, credits the lab with helping them “fast track projects” by demonstrating the possibilities of robotics and handheld scanning technology.

While the equipment and space matter, the guidance of CIRAS staff is what creates lasting change. “Since we started this partnership over three years ago, I have seen growth in the types of technology demonstrated and the complexity of problems solved by the CIRAS Industry 4.0 staff,” said Nick Peterson, strategic partnerships manager at Alliant. “The combination of education, consulting, and collaboration provides immense benefits to the companies who are navigating complex and, at times, costly decisions about their technology investments.”

For more information, contact Jake Behrens at or 5158155003