Kent State Ashtabula and Tuscarawas Campuses Team With ITEN Industries for 3D Printing and Manufacturing Education in Ashtabula
“The direction of engineering technology and future success is in 3D printing and our goal is to drive internship and engineering experience in that area.”
That comment comes from Ron Emery, business development director at ITEN Industries, who sought out Kent State University at Ashtabula and ultimately engineering senior lecturer Michael Czayka for a unique educational partnership across multiple Kent State campuses that could impact the plastics industry throughout the region.
ITEN is a globally recognized leader in the manufacturing of thermoplastic and thermoset stamped, molded and machined plastic parts headquartered in Ashtabula. Currently celebrating its 100th year, ITEN produces over 215 million components each month.
They’ll now be a state-of-the-art laboratory for an emerging technology for Ashtabula area students within Kent State’s College of Applied and Technical Studies as part of Kent State Tuscarawas’s engineering technology program.
“3D printing is an emerging field that people are really interested in,” said Czayka. “ITEN is positioning themselves as a leader in this field and it’s exciting to work with a local company as an institution to provide a pathway to education in a field that is hot and in-demand right now.”
For years, the development of parts and components was time consuming and costly due to the specific requirements of molding and machine operations. However, with the advent of industrial 3D printing, that process has become more effective and efficient. But it’s happened very quickly and operation of the machines requires quite a bit of familiarity.
“We’ve invested heavily in recent years in 3D printing and in advanced computer numerical control (CNC) equipment,” Emery said. “These advances cut down on engineering development time, cost and time to market for us and our customers.”
ITEN currently has on site a JuggerBot 3D Tradesman SeriesTM F3-32 filament fabrication system that can create builds as large as 36 in. x 24 in. x 36 in. The company is adding a pellet extrusion machine that is up to 200 times faster than other industrial 3D printers, capable of building parts with three-times the performance. The new JuggerBot P3-44 model is also three times the size of the current 1,200-pound printer and has a build area of 48 in. x 36 in. x 48 in.
“These new machines allow us to rapidly prototype parts for customers so they are able to look and feel how a product may look when we are helping the customer conceive a product,” said Devin Curtis, a quality engineer at ITEN who specializes in additive manufacturing and ramp armor sales. “We’ve also used the machine to make custom jigs for some of our smaller injected molded parts so they can be measured with our digital comparator, which allows us to speed up the process of measuring parts for our quality checks.”
Curtis also noted the opening of new possibilities outside of manufacturing to include areas like the medical equipment, surgical and prosthetic industries.
“We’re on the verge of an industrial revolution, as this technology opens up these possibilities for anyone,” he said. “All it takes is one to have an idea and run with it.”
Like any new technology, there can be a considerable learning curve to getting good results with different processes and materials. Coming into the industry with prior 3D manufacturing education and experience has significant and measurable advantages.
“Our footprint is growing and we’re using equipment no one else has, developing cool technology no one in this area utilizes and it’s leading to increased production,” Emery said. “But we need people with experience and knowledge to run the equipment.”
Starting this fall, students can take eight courses in the proposed 3D printing curriculum. Courses include engineering drawing principles, 3D modeling introduction, polymers, manufacturing processes and more. The courses are currently taught as part of the Tuscarawas engineering technology degree programs, which include associate degrees in electrical/electronic engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology and technical modeling design, as well as a bachelor’s degree offering several engineering technology concentrations.
This program is the first step in potentially developing a certificate or “stackable credential” in 3D printing and manufacturing that would transition into the associate and ultimately bachelor’s degree programs.
“We’re looking at the future of our workforce and the transition of industry in Ashtabula County,” added Emery. “ITEN has been very successful now for over 100 years, but we’re looking at what will drive us in the future and we believe it will be in 3D printing.”