Advanced Manufacturing Lab Unveiled

East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology has officially launched the first phase of an effort to create a unique advanced manufacturing lab in the high bay of the Science and Technology Building.

Chancellor Cecil Staton and Dr. Harry Ploehn, the college’s dean, laid out their vision for the facility during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Feb. 11, during which students and industry representatives demonstrated the use of two new Haas computer numerical control (CNC) lathes and two Haas CNC mills, which were funded in part by a $100,000 contribution from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Staton said that opening the advanced manufacturing lab and equipping it with state-of-the-art manufacturing tools provides a tangible example of how ECU is fulfilling the three commitments of its strategic plan.

“We are maximizing student success by providing our students with coursework and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, including hands-on experience with these machines, that translate directly into high-paying jobs and fulfilling careers in eastern North Carolina,” he said. The lab will also serve the public and lead regional transformation by developing a highly skilled workforce for the region and providing a collaborative space for industry partners to develop new products and manufacturing processes, he added.

“Wells Fargo is proud to continue our support for East Carolina University and their efforts to create cutting edge facilities that will help prepare their students for success,” said Thomas Cline, region bank president for Wells Fargo and an ECU graduate. “We share the belief that supporting education is one of the most important investments we can make in our country’s future. We know the return on an investment in a great education far exceeds those from the best mutual funds.”

The Haas CNC machines are only the first step toward the ultimate goal of creating an integrated advanced manufacturing space in combining robotics, 3D printing, production line and warehousing technologies – and the cybersecurity necessary to ensure the integrity of internet-connected manufacturing operations.

We want ECU to be the school that people talk about when they think advanced manufacturing, especially with regard to cybersecurity protection,” said Dr. Tijjani Mohammed, chair of the Department of Technology Systems. “This space represents the first step in creating a complete environment for education and workforce development in advanced manufacturing.“We will not only graduate students with a unique skill set, but also serve as a resource for regional manufacturing companies to come for advanced training, project development and collaboration with faculty and students.”

Ploehn pointed out that ECU has already been recognized by the National Security Agency as a leader in cybersecurity education for more than 14 years.

“By integrating our established strength in cybersecurity education and training with this new advanced manufacturing initiative, we will help our graduates and industry partners address one of the greatest concerns facing advanced manufacturing: the cybersecurity of internet-connected manufacturing processes, and the security and integrity of manufacturing process data and intellectual property,” he said. “We expect that ECU will become recognized as one of the nation’s leaders in cybersecurity for advanced manufacturing.”

The College of Engineering and Technology is forming an advanced manufacturing advisory board to help the college understand the industry’s needs and provide advice on future investments in equipment and educational programs, Ploehn said. “Our industry partners, now and in the future, need engineers, technologists and computer scientists with not only a solid theoretical foundation, but also practical hands-on experience with cutting-edge advanced manufacturing technology.”

The new machines unveiled on Monday represent ECU’s commitment to providing that workforce of the future, he said.