SEAMTN Hosts Inaugural Symposium

May 25, 2022 – IACMI joined a symposium hosted by the Southeastern Advanced Machine Tools Network (SEAMTN) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) on May 7, 2022, to discuss America’s Cutting Edge (ACE). IACMI and SEAMTN share similar missions to support machine tool research, development, and training through key partnerships.

“One university can’t do it,” says Dean Matthew Mench of UTK’s Tickle College of Engineering. “You need the partnerships; you need Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other universities working together to really have that impact. And you’re seeing it here today.”

Dr. Tony Schmitz — who wears many hats as a mechanical engineering professor at UTK, joint faculty at ORNL, and director of SEAMTN – says the purpose of the symposium was to form a collaborative defense manufacturing network of partners from government, academia, and industry. “When faculty and students from multiple universities and high schools are in the same room with local industries and non-profits, we all benefit from seeing what each group is doing and see how we can collaborate,” says Schmitz. “I’m really pleased to see these incredible partners coming together for more than a hundred people here today.” 

Workforce development is at the heart of that success. There is an urgent and growing need in the U.S. machining and machine tool industry for skilled individuals – operators, engineers, designers and more – for 30,000 machining companies across the country. IACMI is working to promote a national initiative to restore the prominence of the U.S. machine tools sector through the ACE program. Kim Harris, IACMI’s Regional Workforce Manager, shared how ACE, a training program for Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining that was developed by Schmitz and is managed by IACMI, is addressing that need. More than 2,300 people from all 50 states are engaged in the online training that began in December 2020, and in-person training is expanding from Tennessee to hubs in North Carolina and Texas in the next few months, all at no cost to participants.

Kevin Maxwell, a UTK student who took the ACE training last summer, says ACE was key to helping him land a research position at the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility on campus. “It gives you the credibility you need to get your foot in the door. When I heard about ACE, I thought this could be nothing but good experience for me. I went and loved it.”

The SEAMTN symposium featured speakers and demonstrations from some of their 46 partners and a tour of UTK’s Machine Tools Research Center (MTRC). Technical demonstrations included:

  • Vision-based, AI-enabled safety system from Be Global Safety
  • Hybrid manufacturing cell
  • Additive friction stir deposition
  • MSC MillMax®
  • Oak Ridge High School (ORHS) robot
  • Student poster presentations

Dr. Mark Buckner, who spent 32 years at ORNL and now teaches and coaches robotics at ORHS, knows the importance of making sure the skills our young people are being taught are the ones industry needs now and in the future. Buckner adds, “The only way this is going to be successful is partnering with folks like you. We must understand the gaps. We need to iterate and continuously improve our program, so that we are providing the skills and capabilities to drive innovation.”

Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UTK’s Tickle College of Engineering Jeremy Kirk stressed that building the future workforce depends on casting a wider net today. “We’re all better when we’re all included, when all voices are heard and multiple experiences are validated,” says Kirk. “If we rest on our laurels and continue business as usual and aren’t intentional about building a diverse workforce, we’ll get stuck. The talent is out there; we just have to be intentional about reaching them.”