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March 28, 2023 | Shannon Smith

UTK announces new Machine Tool Research Academy

A bunch of machines are now moved into a 40,000-square-foot space where UTK engineering students will have access to all they need for machine tool research.

Tennessee engineering students now have a huge space to better research machine tools with the goal of bringing machining knowledge back to the U.S.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) Tickle College of Engineering officially announced the Gene Haas Machine Tool Research Academy this week. It’s located in the University of Tennessee Manufacturing and Design Enterprise (TN-MADE) building off Pellissippi Parkway in Hardin Valley in the former Local Motors building.

Run by Dr. Tony Schmitz, a joint faculty member at UTK and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Machine Tool Research Center (MTRC) gives students hands-on experience using equipment like CNC machines, robotic additive manufacturing, and more in sectors of machining, metrology, structural dynamics, precision design, and more.

The Gene Haas Foundation presents a $1,000,000 check to UT.

Having a machining lab is not new, but it used to be in a much smaller place on the UTK main campus.

“We have a lot more room. It was a little cramped in the old facility and we didn’t really have enough room for all of us to work at the same time,” said Joshua Kincaid, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. “We’ll finally have enough room to actually make the scale of parts that these machines are capable of making.”

The MTRC is part of the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, and a hub for America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a program dedicated to free online CNC machine training for people across the country. It’s also supported by the Gene Haas Foundation, which donated $1,000,000 to the MTRC this week, establishing the Gene Haas Machine Tool Research Academy. The Gene Haas Foundation supports education centers spreading machining knowledge, and champions programs like ACE.

“I cannot name a program that is doing more for the machine tool industry than this program at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. You can be so proud this is in your neighborhood, and we will continue to be part of this collaborative ecosystem in Tennessee,” said Kathy Looman with the Gene Haas Foundation.

Students like Kincaid will use the space and machines inside to do research that can impact machining in the real world. Right now some students are doing some research for Boeing, among other big names.

“We also need a place to show other people that manufacturing can and does happen in the U.S.,” he said. “And then that can also inspire people to pursue this research or pursue that as a career path.”

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