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Universities, colleges and technical trade schools have long struggled with how to keep up with equipment and software technology in their plastics engineering departments. While the administrators and instructors know that training students on the latest state-of-the-art machinery and software is critical to producing ready-to-work employees for the industry, getting that machinery and software is not easy.

Clare Goldsberry

March 22, 2013

4 Min Read
Penn State Erie’s Plastics Engineering Technology lab adds MuCell capability

   
Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, recently announced that Trexel will install a MuCell system on one of the college’s 10 injection molding machines installed at their Plastics Engineering Technology Lab. The installation of MuCell process equipment on a 120-ton molding machine is scheduled to be complete early this spring. Undergraduate students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program will receive MuCell process training and will also conduct research projects utilizing the MuCell process as par of their curriculum. The MuCell machine will also be available for industrial trials and process development projects by both faculty and students.
   
This is just the latest advanced technology process acquired by Penn State Erie’s Plastics Engineering program. Last October, the School announced the installation of a variety of manufacturing and design software from Autodesk, a leading developer of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, worth $21.7 million. That represented one of the largest consignments in the School’s history, according to information from Penn State Erie.
   
Included in the Autodesk package is Moldflow, however the school has been teaching Moldflow for a number of years thanks to John Beaumont, an instructor in the program who formerly worked with Moldflow. The Plastics Engineering Technology program also has Sigmasoft program which it installed about a year ago.
   
Brad Johnson, Lecturer in Engineering and a faculty member within the Plastics Engineering Technology program, told PlasticsToday that the effort to obtain state-of-the-art machinery and software has been ongoing since about 1989, when the Program first started.  “Ever since, we’ve tried to get the latest and greatest,” he said. “With over 10,000 square feet, our processing lab accommodates a lot of equipment.”

Johnson noted that the Plastics Engineering Technology Program boasts a broad base of both equipment and software. Equipment includes extrusion, blowmolding, and blown-film equipment in addition to injection molding on its 10 presses ranging from 11 to 200 tons. The 11-ton Boy to be used for micro-molding was the latest machine addition. The Program also has LSR capabilities for its Plastics Medical Center. “Our students get a lot of hands-on processing and computer education,” commented Johnson.

In addition to the Autodesk contributions, the Program has Pro-E design software. Getting machinery and software hasn’t always been easy for universities and trade tech schools, however Johnson noted that it’s been easier to get software consignments than to obtain processing equipment.

Donated molding machines were often older cast-offs that a local molder no longer wanted because the company was upgrading technology. That often left students training on equipment that they might never see in a real-world work setting. However, Johnson noted that’s changing. “We’ve never had a problem with getting software, but I can say that getting equipment has become easier,” he added.

Brent Strawbridge, Trexel’s VP of Sales North America, noted that the company is happy to help out Penn State Behrend’s Plastics Engineering Technology Program because education is critical to the success of not only the students, but the plastics industry as a whole. “From our perspective, it’s an educational benefit. From design symposiums to training engineers in-house at mold making and molding facilities to the training programs we’ll offer at Penn State Erie, we want customers to gain the maximum benefit that MuCell has to offer from the design phase forward,” Strawbridge told PlasticsToday. “Not only does this help promote our technology but it’s a great opportunity to help educate the future of our industry in a technology that in North America, many students haven’t had an opportunity to learn.”

Steve Braig, President and CEO of Trexel, said in a prepared statement, “On behalf of Trexel we’re delighted to be working with Brad Johnson and the Plastics Engineering Technology team at Penn State Behrend in Erie. More than ever, the plastics industry needs to attract well-trained, college graduates into our ranks, and we as a company will look to support education programs like these.”
   
Strawbridge noted that to be successful in the implementation of any new technology, whether in a manufacturing setting or an academic venue, it takes a champion of the technology, noting that Johnson is such a champion.
   
Johnson, while grateful for the compliment, noted that Penn State Behrend’s Plastics Engineering Technology Program has been successful due to the efforts of many people over the 20 years. “This Program was started by the plastics industry in this region, by industry people who had a lot of connections in the various supplier industries,” Johnson said. “That makes this program unique, as well as the fact that the faculty in this program came from industry, not academia. Industry knows what it needs and wants, and The Behrend College responded.”
   
The Plastics Engineering Technology Program graduates around 30 students each year, noted Johnson. “We’re excited about integrating the MuCell process into our curriculum.
   
Johnson is heading up Behrend’s fourth Injection Molding innovation and Emerging Technologies Conference, to be held May 22-23. Trexel will host one of the three-hour afternoon tutorials. For more information about the conference, contact Brad Johnson at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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