By CELESTE BOTT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Manufacturers throughout the state will soon have access to digital modeling and simulation tools through General Electric’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center.
The new tools should save money and create jobs, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences says.
The developing innovation center that will provide such tools is the result of a partnership between General Electric and NCMS based in Ann Arbor, and a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC)..
GE’s technology Center in Van Buren Township will house the innovation center.
The center’s simulation software will improve and accelerate manufacturing by making the state more globally competitive, expanding suppliers and creating jobs, according to NCMS.
Alissa Roath, NCMS communications director, said that the new technology is also cost-effective.
“These new sets of modeling and simulation tools are alternatives to a physical prototype that will save time and money and diversify business,” Roath said.
The tools will allow small- to medium-sized manufacturers to virtualize what they hope to build and analyze the simulation. The new digital processes will optimize speed, reliability and efficiency, according to NCMS.
MEDC President Michael Finney said that the entire state can benefit from making these tools available and affordable to smaller companies.
“Michigan manufacturers – and the talented workers they employ – help make our state a global center of innovation,” Finney said. “We are proud to support efforts like this that cement our manufacturing dominance and help our businesses compete, grow, and create new jobs.”
Among the first group to use the center will be manufacturers participating in a federally-funded program led by the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, as well as tNCMS. The manufacturing “cluster” was awarded more than $2 million in a grant to connect local manufacturers able to support custom projects to new global contracts.
Dawn White, president of Accio Energy, a manufacturing company based in Ann Arbor promoting wind-based technology, said that the greatest benefit is the combination of assets.
“We see these resources as a great opportunity to share assets among both small and large companies,” White said.
White said that even with increased use of new technology, manufacturers will save money in the long run.
“The tools available at the innovation center can accelerate our rates of innovation and product development without the enormous costs associated with modeling,” she said. “Those high costs are normally required for our work, but now we can pool our assets.”
These simulation tools may be newly accessible through GE, but educational institutions in the state have been training budding manufacturers in the new technology.
Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City offers advanced manufacturing simulations though their Lean Learning Consortium, which aims to assist organizations in becoming more globally competitive.
Michigan Technological University teaches mechanical engineers to use digital prototyping and 3D modeling software to complete projects.
John Irwin,the mechanical engineering technology chair, said that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I used to work in the auto industry,” he said. “I tell them that I know from experience that they’re going to be doing digital prototyping on virtually any job they get. Companies don’t create physical prototypes, or as many physical prototypes, when they can validate designs digitally to save money. Employers today want to see digital prototyping skills.”
Roath of NCMS said that the innovation center can provide such prototyping, as well as the opportunity to connect manufacturers to companies like Siemens AG, Microsoft and GE.
The center will be open to the public in early 2013.
By CELESTE BOTT