Iowa State University to launch digital manufacturing lab

Alliant Energy commits more than $100,000 to the project

Craig Davies, maintenance manager, works on a robotic arm at East Iowa Machine Company in Farley on Wednesday, June 10,
Craig Davies, maintenance manager, works on a robotic arm at East Iowa Machine Company in Farley on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. The arm will be used to automatically load parts into a machine. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Alliant Energy and Iowa State University have announced the ISU Digital Manufacturing Lab will open this summer in the ISU Research Park as a setting for manufacturers to explore new business methods and technologies.

“Affordability and success go hand in hand,” Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy’s Iowa energy company, said in a Monday news release. “When our industrial and commercial customers are more successful, it gives us greater flexibility to control costs for all of our customers.”

ISU’s Center for Industrial Research and Service, or CIRAS, will open the lab thanks ion part to grant funding from Alliant. The utility company will provide advice and counsel to businesses, while also collaborating with university faculty and students on research and internships.

An ISU news release notes that Alliant is committing more than $100,000 to the new lab. The utility’s grant represents the largest private gift to CIRAS since the center opened 55 years ago.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority provided funding to purchase equipment and cover remodeling costs.

According to the university release, the lab will be used to help companies explore ways to increase production while maintaining their workforce. Many times, companies face challenges when making proper investments with ever-changing technologies.

“This is what CIRAS does,” Mike O’Donnell, director of the CIRAS Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, said in the release. “We are going to be an unbiased source to help manufacturers identify the right technology for them at the right time.”


The hope is that the lab helps companies make the right choices to implement new technology as risk-free as possible.

“The next new idea or machine could hold the key to success that a growing company needs,” Joel Schmidt, vice president of business development for Alliant Energy, said in the release. “This lab provides the perfect opportunity to refine a new approach before it is introduced into the workplace.”

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