Tech Education: Berkshire Innovation Center gets big equipment upgrade

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Photo Gallery | BIC advanced manufacturing technology for Berkshire Community College

PITTSFIELD — The high-tech machines that are needed to train workers in the latest advanced manufacturing techniques have arrived in the Berkshires.

The Berkshire Innovation Center and collaborative partner Berkshire Community College on Thursday unveiled several new innovative pieces of equipment, including a 3D printer so cutting-edge that it has never been located on a college campus before.

"This is our newest product," said Charles Evans, an applications engineer for Stratasys Ltd., the Minnesota-based company that is the world's largest manufacturer of 3D printers.

This 3D printer, which William Mulholland, BCC's vice president for workforce development and community education affectionately referred to as "the big moose" on Wednesday, is capable of printing in seven different materials, including bio-compatible materials, and the complete color spectrum.

"I think it gives a lot of latitude to creativity," said Michael Maruk, a representative of General Dynamics Mission Systems, after observing a demonstration of the printer Thursday at Taconic High School. "It's like instant gratification from a design standpoint."

The BIC also received two other 3D printers, a coordinate measuring machine (CMM), a laser scanner and reverse engineering software. The equipment was purchased with $960,000 in funding obtained through a Massachusetts Life Sciences Center grant and the Massachusetts Workforce Skills Capital Program.

The equipment is currently being housed at Taconic High School's manufacturing shop for BCC students to work and train on. It will be relocated to the BIC after the 20,000 square foot structure planned to house the innovation center is built at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires.

With the BIC still lacking a physical presence, BCC is fast becoming the center's spiritual home. Several BIC speaking engagements have been held at BCC since the nonprofit that will run the innovation center was formed in 2014, including Thursday's announcement, which took place in the school's cafeteria and received RSVPs from 65 attendees.

The new equipment will enable Berkshire workforce development coordinators to train local workers in the newest advanced manufacturing skills. This should help local employers who have had trouble finding skilled employees living in the Berkshires.

"This is really, really highly technical equipment in its own right," Mulholland said. "But what you do with it is even more technical. Where the college comes in is our students will come in and train and work on this equipment."

Armed with those skills, Mulholland said the goal is to provide the county's youth with the kind of skill sets that will enable them to obtain good paying jobs so they can remain in the Berkshires.

"That makes them not only extremely valuable no matter where they go to have their hands on technology, but particularly here," Mulholland said. "Our companies are going to learn to run the equipment. Our students are going to take it the nth degree."

The CMM machine, manufactured by Hexagon Metrology at its plant in North Kingstown, R.I., is used to ensure that high-tech applications, such as medical devices, have been designed and built correctly to microscopic measurements.

"One micron is how much that machine will measure and with the laser it will look for flaws that could never be detected," Mulholland said. "Many companies, medical device companies, Johnson & Johnson, are requiring companies to have that capability."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.


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