WPI's Metal Processing Institute Receives Million Gift

Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

WPI President Edward Alton Parrish, left, and Metal Processing Institute Director Diran Apelian flank benefactor Ray H. Witt.

WORCESTER, Mass. - Thanks to benefactor Ray H. Witt, Worcester Polytechnic Institute recently received a gift of $1 million for its Metal Processing Institute (MPI). The gift will establish the Ray H. Witt Endowment Fund to support metalcasting activities at WPI. WPI's Aluminum Casting Research Laboratory will now be called the ACRL - Ray H. Witt Metalcasting Center.

Witt, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is chairman of the board of CMI-Management Services and director of Hayes Lemmerz International. He is past president of the American Foundrymen's Society, the Ductile Iron Society, the Foundry Education Foundation and the Iron Casting Society. The MPI is the largest industry-university alliance in North America; it establishes a link between university research and industry. Dedicated to advance the frontiers of net shape manufacturing, MPI has four distinct centers aligned along technologies - casting, powder metallurgy, semi-solid processing and heat treating.

Back in 1984, while still a professor at Drexel University, MPI director Diran Apelian invited 10 aluminum casting firms to join a new consortium for $10,000 a year, in order to support research and development and to enhance the industry's position.

"I knew the industry was going to grow, and it would need a link to academia," Apelian said. Three days later, an envelope was dropped onto his desk. Inside was a check for $10,000, signed by Ray H. Witt. "I knew then we were on to something," Apelian said.

The Aluminum Casting Research Laboratory was born. In the years since, Apelian's prediction has come true. The aluminum industries have, indeed, grown tremendously, as manufacturers have replaced more and more of the steel in cars, airplanes and other vehicles with aluminum to reduce weight and improve fuel economy, and as many new applications have been found for the lightweight metal.

The rising demand for aluminum products has led to growing competition among metal processing companies and increasing pressure to both improve the quality of finished parts and push the envelope in manufacturing technology. That, in turn, has placed a premium on fundamental and applied research on metal alloys and the various techniques used to fashion them into useful shapes.

Often unable to carry out this research on their own, companies that supply raw metals, form them into finished products and use those products have turned to universities for help. Most have come to WPI, where the Aluminum Casting Research Laboratory moved in 1990 when Apelian became the University's provost. The ACRL is recognized as the premier center; it has grown to 35 companies and is headed by Makhlouf M. Makhlouf, WPI associate professor of mechanical engineering.

During the last four years, the ACRL paradigm has been used to establish industry-university alliances in other facets of the metal processing industry: powder metallurgy, semisolid metal processing and metal heat treating. Together, the four centers have more than 130 corporate partners. Supported by the vision of Ray H. Witt back in 1984, MPI has become a major resource for the industry. Sixteen years after that original contribution, Witt's newest investment for the future reaffirms and recognizes the value of WPI's industry-university alliance.