New Facility to Equip Students with Design-through-Manufacturing Expertise
By Mark Dwortzan
With the flip of a rather large switch, the Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC)—a 15,000-square-foot, $9 million facility that willenable students to develop the knowledge and skills needed in tomorrow’s manufacturing enterprises—opened with a ceremony, reception and guided tours on January 23.
The event drew a packed audience consisting of Boston University leaders; ENG alumni, faculty and students; state and local government officials; and corporate partners, including representatives from principal industry sponsors GE Aviation, Procter & Gamble, PTC and Schlumberger. Many of them gathered around and pulled a large purpose-built switch which turned on many of the machines in the center and activated their start-up lights and sounds.
Featuring $18.8 million in state-of-art-design software donated by PTC, as well as advanced machining tools, laser processing equipment, rapid 3-D printers and intelligent robotics, EPIC will allow students to learn how to create innovative new products in an integrated, holistic way that encompasses design, prototyping, fabrication, manufacturing and lifecycle management. The glass-fronted facility, which is housed in the former Guitar Center building at 750 Commonwealth Avenue, includes a flexible, computer-aided design (CAD) studio, demonstration areas, laboratories and a machining and fabrication center, all in a reconfigurable layout that will be easily adaptable to future technologies and needs.
EPIC will serve as a resource to significantly increase the amount of design work in the undergraduate curriculum through stand-alone courses, enhancements to existing courses and opportunities to collaborate with fellow students, faculty and global leaders in innovation and manufacturing.
“EPIC has a vision of transforming engineering education nationally, so that every engineer, regardless of major, learns the process and excitement of going from design to computer-aided design to prototype to mass-producing something that could be a product to impact society and add economic value,” said Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen in his opening remarks at the event. “We want this to be a hub of design and innovation.”
Noting the critical role that manufacturing plays in today’s economy, BU President Robert A. Brown envisioned EPIC as an important element in reinvigorating manufacturing in the US and empowering ENG students to lead the way.
“Today, more than ever, competitive product development is about the entire integration of product creation, design and manufacturing,” said Brown. “Engineers who can do those things will be highly valued in the marketplace going forward. EPIC is about giving all our engineering students experiences to prepare them for this challenge.”
Jim Heppleman, CEO of PTC, underscored EPIC’s potential to equip ENG students with the practical knowledge and skills to meet that challenge by providing them with a “real-world environment to solve real-world challenges using real-world tools.”
EPIC was funded through the University, ENG alumni and friends, and industrial partners. EPIC’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) members, all representatives of the facility’s principal industry sponsors, will provide ongoing suggestions on ways to develop the ENG undergraduate curriculum to better reflect the evolving needs of US industry.