This fall will mark the second anniversary of the CIRAS Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy, and we’re still growing.
We opened the lab in September 2019 as to experiment with ways to de-risk technology adoption for Iowa manufacturers. Since then, we have served the Industry 4.0 needs of many businesses in Iowa via in-person events, counseling sessions and projects.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 kept most people out of the lab last year. But we haven’t been dormant. Instead, CIRAS used the opportunity to expand our technology partnerships, upgrade our technology, and evolve our services from in-person to virtual engagements.
Work by CIRAS to increase the adoption of cutting-edge edge technology in Iowa manufacturing will play a key role supporting the state’s new plan for keeping Iowa industry competitive.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the new Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative on Thursday, saying it was intended to outline “new strategies to support (manufacturers’) efforts and ensure Iowa’s future prosperity is widespread, reaching all people in all parts of Iowa.”
The initiative, which is led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, creates strategies and actions focused on ensuring Iowa is a global leader in the next generation of manufacturing.
A downtown Des Moines apartment building avoided a costly elevator replacement last year after CIRAS helped its owners recreate an essential piece of safety equipment.
Investors bought the aging, 11-story building at 600 East Fifth Street in Des Moines in 2013. They then renamed it The Lyon and spent two years remodeling it into 103 new apartments. A problem soon became apparent, however, in that something important seemed to have been lost during the sale.
An Armstrong maker of hydraulic lift vehicles expects to save money and eliminate production delays after CIRAS helped the company find an alternative for a problem part.
TG Industries, which also does business as Arm Lift, started using a particular type of rocker switch in its vehicles in 2000, said engineer Loren Kinnander. By 2019, the once-standard switches were no longer common. Prices rose as they became harder and harder to obtain from the company’s single overseas supplier.
Iowa State University’s Digital Manufacturing Lab is adding new tools to give Iowa companies more minimal-risk ways to experiment with new technology. Chris Hill, director of the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP), said two new 3D printers will give the lab greater flexibility to produce detailed prototypes for Iowa companies looking to experiment with new … Continue reading Digital Lab: New Tech Brings New Possibilities
Craig Klocke believes machines one day will be much more efficient because an electronic eye will constantly be checking what they make.
Installing scanners at the end of a production line would allow manufacturers to continuously watch for the changes that come when cutting tools are wearing out, said Klocke, head of additive design and manufacturing for Danfoss Power Solutions in Ames.
“As tools wear, as machines wear, the scanning would allow the machines to adjust,” Klocke said. “You’d end up with a better product, and you’d know exactly when it was time to replace a part or tool. You’d have continuous adjustment of the process.
It all started with the search for a better way to check electrical connections on air conditioners.
Wes Draughn, manager of manufacturing and engineering for the cooling business unit at Lennox Manufacturing in Marshalltown, had a design for a new process to help Lennox team members be more efficient in checking the quality of their work. “We needed a way to interact with the unit at different times throughout the assembly process, and the plugs that we needed weren’t available off the shelf,” he said.
An intern had designed a new guide that could be used to help assemblers test connections at multiple locations on the line. The new “plug” would provide a more ergonomic grip for employees, meeting safety and other agency requirements. But there seemed to be no way to get it built.
Dozens of Iowa manufacturers got their first glimpse of a path to new technologies on September 26, as CIRAS formally opened its new Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy.
Representatives from CIRAS, Alliant Energy, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) were joined by Iowa State University and Ames leaders for opening remarks and a tour.
Charles Romans sees tremendous possibility in the relationship he’s building with his counterparts on the other side of Iowa.
Romans is the 3D design prototype director for ProtoStudios, a University of Iowa rapid prototyping facility that’s part of the MERGE innovation lab in downtown Iowa City. Despite his black-and-gold employer, Romans and his staff have been working closely with CIRAS project manager Mark Williamson and Chris Hill, director of the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP), for more than a year as part of a joint effort to learn from each other and give taxpayers the maximum benefit from the equipment each agency controls.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Hill said with a chuckle. “It is possible for Hawkeyes and Cyclones to work together.”
Nathan Meyer was no stranger to CIRAS, but he wasn’t fully aware of all the technical expertise available at Iowa State University until he took a CIRAS-led tour of campus research labs in the fall of 2017.
Dennis Fogle believes the dawn is coming for his industry in Iowa.
“We’re right on the edge,” said Fogle, general manager of Agile Additive Manufacturing Ltd. in Pella. “It’s just over the hill. . . . I think we just need a little bit more education here.”
Agile, a recently formed offshoot of Canada’s largest 3D printing service bureau, opened in Iowa last year in preparation for an expected wave in the use of 3D printing in Iowa manufacturing. Several other Iowa companies likewise have been formed over the last two years with a business plan that involves designing and/or 3D printing products for others. All report more fervent interest in the technology.
About 18 months ago, CIRAS announced its new “Future of Manufacturing” series to help manufacturers become ready for what is “next” in manufacturing. While this was a significant leap, it was based on a simple premise: changes in technology, workforce, and business models were moving so fast that we needed to help get Iowa manufacturers out in front.
Members of Iowa State University’s PrISUm solar car team see a silver lining in the clouds that dampened their recent trip to Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
Despite rainy weather and a missed checkpoint that knocked them out of the finish, the Iowa State engineering students are taking pride in the fact that they managed to build a practical and highly functional solar-powered SUV—one that, once tweaked, appears destined for future competitions.
Every day we see something “new” in manufacturing. 3D Printed food, connected everything, cobots, and the list goes on. In fact, we’ve heard of these possibilities for decades. But something about these things seems a bit more real now than in the past. Like something important is happening
Iowa industry professionals have the chance to get a close-up peak at cutting-edge technology next month when CIRAS hosts a daylong event on “3D Printing’s Current and Future Impacts on Manufacturing.”
The June 8 event in Ames is intended to explain how this disruptive technology has evolved from its initial use as a prototyping process and how it’s likely to drive change in your business.
At this very moment, the future of American manufacturing is being written at nine specially linked institutes fueled by $2.1 billion from the U.S. government, research universities, and hundreds of American companies.
It’s known as the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) – or, following a rebranding campaign launched in mid-September, as “Manufacturing USA.” If you aren’t familiar with it, you should begin educating yourself as soon as possible. Because your ability to compete could change dramatically, depending on the work taking place there and how quickly you’re willing and/or able to embrace it.
A trailblazing exploration of metal additive manufacturing as a new way for Iowa companies to make tooling could soon reap rewards in terms of cheerleaders with better balance.
American Athletic Inc., a Jefferson, Iowa-based sports equipment manufacturer, plans to launch a new product this fall aimed at helping high school and college cheerleaders around the country find a safer way to strengthen leg muscles and learn the kind of balance necessary for standing in someone’s hands. American Athletic describes its new EliteTM Cheer Stand as a safer, closer-to-the-floor way for cheerleaders to train. The product, which also was tested by Iowa State University cheerleaders, includes multiple plastic parts produced by Ottumwa-based Angstrom Precision Molding—using a mold built by CIRAS’ metal 3D printer.
A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing.
Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.
It might be a step too far to call Sears Manufacturing’s problem a pain in the backside. But the evasive and mysterious cause behind an ongoing problem with a purchased component used in the company’s vehicle seat suspension certainly proved annoying—until Sears called upon members of CIRAS’ Technology Assistance Program (TAP).
The result? An in-depth analysis of cracked air compressors that early this year will lead to a design change on the pneumatically controlled seats that Sears, a 160-year-old Davenport firm, makes for construction and agriculture equipment around the country.
The future of manufacturing officially opened for business last week (at least symbolically) when Iowa State University College of Engineering Dean Sarah Rajala used a set of 3-D-printed scissors to cut the ribbon on CIRAS’ new metal laser sintering machine.