ROCK ISLAND – Governor Pat Quinn today praised the public-private partnership at work at the Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory in Rock Island and encouraged others to follow their lead of innovative economic development and education. Governor Quinn toured the facility today on the grounds of the Rock Island Arsenal, where he saw a demonstration of their “additive manufacturing” concept at work. Today’s tour is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to move Illinois’ economy forward through partnerships and innovation.
“The Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory utilizes engineering students and cutting-edge technology to help manufacturers develop, improve and test parts before they are produced,” Governor Quinn said. “This 21st century facility prepares students for high-tech manufacturing jobs, and helps companies innovate and succeed while developing new and competitive products.”
The lab is managed, staffed and equipped by Western Illinois University (WIU) but housed at the Rock Island Arsenal. The WIU Quad City Campus School of Engineering students have the opportunity for paid internships through the laboratory, where they are exposed to cutting edge materials, manufacturing, automation and computing technology. The partnership between WIU and the laboratory creates a facility with a wide range of capabilities including advanced manufacturing, advanced material design, robotics, automation, computational modeling and simulation, and virtual design environments.
One of the lab’s main focus areas is additive manufacturing, which uses specialized equipment to add material to a part, instead of the conventional manufacturing processes which usually remove material, as in drilling or milling operations. In many situations additive manufacturing can eliminate material and energy waste that occurs during traditional processes, making it an ideal green technology.
The laboratory also uses digital modeling to test components prior to building them. This can reduce the number of prototype components manufactured during the product design cycle, which saves on development costs and encourages industries to experiment with innovation. Another new advancement in use at the lab is direct part manufacturing, which uses a 3-D metal printer, metal alloy powder and a digital model of the item so parts can be “printed” on demand. This reduces the amount of materials that must be kept on hand for parts manufacturing, and thereby saves operating costs for the manufacturer.
The Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory is a national resource for the research and development of advanced materials and manufacturing technology for commercial and military applications. Along with its other public and private partners, the lab is working to develop an advanced manufacturing cluster in the Quad Cities region. This will assist the Rock Island Arsenal and regional manufacturers to use emerging trends in advanced materials, additive manufacturing, automation, rapid prototyping, robotics and engineering. It will also strengthen this region's chances of becoming a key player in President Barack Obama's new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, which could result in an influx of millions of dollars in new private and public sector dollars to the Quad Cities region.