WMU News

Varatech awards $2.1 million in new software

Aug. 1, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Young engineers trained at Western Michigan University will head into the work force ready to use the latest generation of sophisticated manufacturing software that translates precise computer-aided-designs into the real world requirements of production, thanks to a new $2.1 million software award from Varatech of Holland, Mich.

Continuing its partnership with WMU, Varatech, a leading technical engineering consulting firm, has awarded 100 seats of the company's integrated Sigmund 3D for Pro/Engineer software and 100 seats of its new Sigmund Pro Tolerance software for use in WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. A similar award last year of an earlier version made WMU the only university in the nation with the ability to train future engineers to use the software, which provides a bridge between the virtual realm of CAD and the real world of manufacturing.

"We're developing a long-term partnership with Western Michigan University," says Robert Gardner, president of Varatech. "WMU graduates who have experience using Sigmund are attractive to the many industry leaders who use Sigmund on a day-to-day basis, and WMU graduates are being recruited based on their knowledge of the software. We're also exploring advanced research options in a variety of areas. We're basically developing a symbiotic relationship."

Sigmund software is designed to help companies increase product quality, reduce production costs and get their products to market sooner. It factors into CAD product designs a sense of some of the dimensional variations that are the inevitable result of the manufacturing process. The software helps engineers identify and correct for the most significant sources of those variations before the variations result in production problems.

Since WMU engineers began using Sigmund a year ago, the software has been completely integrated into two engineering courses, and curriculum development work is under way to integrate the technology into two additional engineering courses. University officials are also investigating application of the software to a number of ongoing automotive research projects.

"Varatech's commitment to us is having a major impact on our students," says Dr. Daniel M. Litynski, dean of WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "We're using the software in the classroom, and many of our graduate students have recognized the value of gaining experience in using the products. Many are even working on their own to become more familiar with its applications. Variation analysis is not something taught at most universities, and our students were quick to realize the value of being fluent in the use of a product like this that is already in extensive use in industry."

The software, is available in the Computer-Aided Engineering Center in WMU's Kohrman Hall, and is used for such undergraduate courses as Designing for Production and Statistical Quality Control as well as the graduate level course, Advanced Quality Management. The new award is for Sigmund software that can be used on the school's Pro/Engineer CAD system.

Varatech's Gardner says research initiatives aimed at using Sigmund software for a wide variety of business functions and even for research on the molecular level could set the future direction of the WMU/Varatech partnership. Gardner currently is a member of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences' Board of Visitors, a group of industry representatives who advise the college on such issues as curriculum development and ensure programs are relevant to industry needs.

David Meadors, operations manager for Varatech, also is involved with WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. A WMU alumnus, Meadors is a member of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering's Advisory Board and has played a major role in recruiting several WMU graduates for positions at Varatech.

About Varatech

Varatech is one of the leading technical engineering consulting firms in Michigan. Specializing in dimensional control as well as product and software development, Varatech has experience in a broad number of industries. For more information regarding Varatech's products and services, visit Varatech's Web site at <www.varatech.com> or call (616) 393-6408.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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