WPI to Become Regional Center for Machine Tool Technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/September 12, 2001
Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Worcester Polytechnic Institute has received a major gift and entrustment that will bring the most advanced machine tools made by Haas Automation to central Massachusetts.

Fleet Asset Management, trustee of the Elizabeth A. Lufkin Trust, has awarded $400,000 to the manufacturing engineering program at WPI. Christopher A. Brown, professor of mechanical engineering and director of WPI's Manufacturing Engineering Program, will purchase computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) machine tools and related equipment to develop new educational programs primarily for undergraduate students majoring in mechanical and manufacturing engineering. Graduate research using the tools is also planned. More than 500 students per year use WPI's machine tools in course work, project work, and graduate and undergraduate research.

CNC machine tools facilitate the automation of the "art-to-part" process that is commonly used in industry to move from computer drawings to machined parts. CNC machining centers enable the precise, repeatable production of complex geometries, such as airfoils, instruments, research tools and biomedical devices. "All manufacturing industries rely on machining," Brown says. "Virtually no manufactured part is more than two steps away from a machine tool that cuts metal."

Brown notes that CNC machining has been used by industry for more than 20 years and has become ubiquitous. He says employers increasingly expect students to be competent in dealing with such technical complexity. "The cost of this equipment has made it difficult for schools to teach this technology to large numbers of engineering students," he says. "The generosity of the Lufkin Trust and Haas Automation has now made this possible at WPI. Our next challenge is to develop the right methods for teaching the right material about CNC to our students."

An entrustment valued at more than $200,000 from Haas Automation Inc. will establish WPI's Haas Technical Center. Haas Automation in Oxnard, Calif., is the leading manufacturer of machine tools in North America. In establishing the Haas Technical Center, the company will match WPI-purchased equipment with "entrusted" equipment that will be replaced approximately every two years.

WPI President Edward Alton Parrish is enthusiastic about the improvements the gift and entrustment will make possible. "WPI prides itself on the quality of our educational program, particularly with the opportunities that students have to experience the most technologically sophisticated lab environments," he says. "This equipment, and its incorporation into the curriculum, will provide WPI students the best possible preparation for high-tech careers. Through the education provided using the latest machine tool equipment, WPI has the opportunity to impact the pipeline of engineers going into the most sophisticated areas of high-tech manufacturing, such as the production of robotics and biomedical devices."

Funding from the Lufkin Trust and the entrustment from Haas Automation Inc., along with support from the University, will allow WPI to become a showcase for the latest computer-numerically-controlled machine tool technology. In addition, the WPI Haas Technical Center will make it possible for the University to significantly enhance the technical expertise of engineers preparing for high-tech manufacturing careers.

Several additional organizations have contributed to the manufacturing engineering program including Atlas Copco; Kennametal; Blaser Swisslube Inc.,; and Thorsen, Inc.

Donors will be recognized at an event on September 14, 2001 at the WPI Campus.

Founded in 1865, WPI was a pioneer in technological higher education. Early on, it developed an influential curriculum that balanced theory and practice. Since 1970, that philosophy has been embodied in an innovative outcomes-oriented undergraduate program. With a network of project centers that spans the globe, WPI is also the leader in globalizing technological education. WPI awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, most of WPI's academic departments offer master's and doctoral programs and support leading edge research in a broad range of areas. WPI's approach to education has prepared generations of problem solvers whose new ideas and inventions have literally changed the world. They include Robert Goddard '08, father of modern rocketry, Harold Black, inventor of the principle of negative-feedback; Carl Clark, inventor of the first practical airbag safety systems; Richard T. Whitcomb, who formulated the Area Rule and developed the supercritical wing, and Dean Kamen, who invented the first wearable drug infusion pump while still an undergraduate.