Cece Jabs-


University of Wisconsin–Stout is well-known for its engineering majors, and the university has ties to several businesses in the area. The engineering program received an anonymous machinery donation valued at approximately $530K, which was donated in the form of two automated manufacturing cell machines.

The machines were recently moved into Fryklund Hall in the Manufacturing Technology Lab. Although the donation was anonymous, the machines originated from the Phillips Medisize facility here in Menomonie. They are used to produce plastic medical supplies and parts.

The machines are available for students and staff, and the engineering department seems to be using the equipment to not only teach students what sort of technology is used in their field, but also to teach good design practices.

Joe Brown, a senior in the mechanical engineering program, said, “I would first have to say that it’s always exciting as an engineer to be able to work with new technology and be able to use the same equipment that is used in industry […] I believe it was Phillips Medisize who donated the machines. It’s nice to know a local company likes to give their old equipment to help the new generation of engineers learn. I think it provides a unique experience here at Stout, and if I knew what class was specifically working with them, I would look forward to signing up for it because it would provide a more hands-on experience in the manufacturing process.” Brown is not a manufacturing engineering major, so he explained that he hasn’t used the machines himself, but he has seen them in the lab.

Aaron Sonnemann, a manufacturing engineering major and current employee at Phillips Medisize, said, “The machines donated will be a great representation of the complex engineering work involved in producing commercial products.” Sonnemann explained that specifically in the medical field, there is an added level of detail to ensure everything can be traced back to the specifics of the batch. “The best way to learn about manufacturing and automation is to get hands on experience with the subject matter instead of simply learning from a textbook. [The donation] is a prime example of how UW–Stout and the Menomonie businesses work together to create an exemplary polytechnic university,” Sonnemann said.

Although the equipment may have been outdated to the medical facility, it will surely find new life with UW–Stout’s engineering program. Over 750 students are part of UW–Stout’s engineering majors, and many of them will have access to the machinery. Brown shared that he hasn’t heard many professors going into detail about the machines yet. However, this will likely change as more people become familiar with them.

What will the university use the machines for? According to the Dunn County News, the new machines have specific uses in the engineering program. One of the two machines is being used for a capstone course this spring, in which students are changing the machine to make it produce plastic keychain holders. These keychain holders will be given out to any campus visitors. The second machine will be used for instructional purposes in electronic and automation controls courses.