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KTC gets new technology

Matthew Long, junior in manufacturing engineering, uses the Kansas Technology Center’s newest machinery to cut the Pitt State logo out of steel on Nov. 11. The plasma cutter is a $30,000 piece of equipment that the KTC was granted. Libby Davis

The College of Technology’s Manufacturing Engineering Technology Lab is now home to a new plasma cutter.

On Dec. 29, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $1.6 million grant to Pittsburg State University, making this possible.

“The grant was provided to support economic development in the four-states region by creating a technology-based workforce to attract new, and grow existing, manufacturing businesses.  In that spirit, this grant provides funds through the newly established National Institute of Materials Advancement (NIMA) at PSU for the purchase of new equipment for teaching and research,” said Tim Dawsey, executive director for the Advancement of Applied Science & Technology.

A plasma cutter forces heated up, electrically charged gas through an extremely tiny orifice at jet speeds. This is enough force to cut through any raw materials. 

“We were using plasma as a cutting tool with our old machines, but how we were creating the program and how we were telling the torch to move wasn’t as advanced. On the new machine, the computer numerical control (CNC), is telling the plasma torch where to go and at what speed.”

The biggest difference between the new and old machines is how it’s told what to do.

“The previous machine we had was an electric eye, it would see a pattern drawn on paper, and the eye would reflect the black ink line and tell two little motors where to go,” Mcnew said. “Well the industry doesn’t do that. They want to go strictly online.”

Efficiency is not the only big topic discussed in the manufacturing engineering technology lab.

“We’re all concerned about sustainability, steel prices are at records, we don’t want to waste anything,” Mcnew said. “So if we can nest parts and have a very small silhouette of waste that is best, and this machine is a great tool for doing that.”

The machine and special grounding steps required for it totaled to around $34,000.

“It is intended that the new plasma cutter, and other pieces of equipment that are being purchased with these funds, will provide students with hands-on training with state-of-the-art technologies to give them the skills they will need to excel, and that businesses highly value,” Dawsey said.

 KTC tries to predict what technology and equipment their students will be expected to use in their careers.

“Plasma cutters are utilized in lots of areas of work, heavy equipment., any structural steel fabrications, the remodeling they want to do on Kelce will probably include steel cutouts,” Mcnew said.  “Automating directions through the machine’s CNC helps us get away from shaky hands, so tolerances can be much tighter, and fit along with structural integrity of the building will be much better.”

Mcnew is in his 42nd year of teaching and still gets excited at the opportunity of teaching students about new machines.

“The engineering technology students are very active with the shop floor, of course they are in the classroom learning about the basics of welding, but then we are going to go out and do it,” Mcnew said. “It’s about burning holes in your clothes and understanding the safety and the whole deal.”

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