Manufacturing students at Pennsylvania College of Technology will be exposed to international insights this fall, thanks to the unique summer travels of one of their professors.
Eric K. Albert, associate professor of automated manufacturing and machining, recently returned from China where he toured a midsized manufacturing facility for Zeepro Inc., a company producing consumer market 3-D printers.
"The Chinese facility had machines similar to the ones in our own manual and automated manufacturing labs," Albert said. "I got a fantastic look at the level of technology and processes they were using to make finished goods. I was given permission to photograph the entire plant, including their manufacturing lines. Those photos alone will be valuable for class use."
A worker positions part of a cellphone case in a precision milling and engraving machine.
Albert also evaluated Zeepro's production design process and interacted with the company's engineering and management teams during his weeklong stay in the Longgang District of Shenzhen, a major city and special economic zone in southern China. Such zones boast greater free-market economic policies than most of China.
Zeepro invited the more than 300 funders of its Kickstarter campaign to apply for the trip. Albert was the lone American of the four individuals chosen.
"A trip to the primary manufacturing district of China and the chance to see a new 3-D printer were certainly enough encouragement for me to apply," Albert said. "I suspect my experience in 3-D printing and the fact that I'm a professor at a technical college matched what they were looking for."
Penn College has been at the forefront of incorporating 3-D printing in its curriculum. Several classes within the School of Industrial, Computing and Engineering Technologies utilize 3-D printers for hands-on instruction and projects. The printers are additive manufacturing tools that produce solid objects based on digital designs. Successive layers of material "printed" on top of one another form the objects.
"Additive manufacturing is a passion for Eric, and we are proud that Zeepro selected him for such a rewarding trip," said David R. Cotner, dean of industrial, computing and engineering technologies. "Our students, who already are in high demand upon graduation, will certainly benefit from Eric sharing such a rare experience with them."