WIU and local companies poised to lead manufacturing revival

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Bryan Ragle is using the latest technology to build a career.

"I'm in love with it," he said.

Inside the Quad City Manufacturing Lab on Tuesday, WIU engineering students are on the ground floor for a manufacturing revival.

"There's a whole new doorway for a lot of people," he said.

Western Illinois University will be part of this new frontier in manufacturing. That's because it will join 23 universities and labs in The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute unveiled on Tuesday.

"The advanced manufacturing technology will open up all sorts of new jobs," said Dr. Eric Faierson, who directs the Quad City Manufacturing Lab at the Rock Island Arsenal.

The lab will be part of a world class team. Among other things, it will use 3-D printing to make prototypes for a variety of products.

"We can make this thing in a matter of hours which conventionally would take several weeks or months," said Dr. William Pratt, director of WIU's School of Engineering.

The parts will represent a new era in manufacturing. President Obama's initiative promises something good for the Quad Cities by creating jobs and academic opportunities.

It fits in nicely with a longtime local effort. This project will promote collaboration between colleges and companies.

It's retooling our manufacturing base. It's a new era that could bring more jobs back to the United States.

"We're trying to position the Quad Cities to be a beneficiary of that resurgence of manufacturing on our homeland," said Paul Rumler, executive vice president of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce.

It all sounds good to WIU junior Bryan Ragle. At age 21, it won't be long before he's looking for a job.

"Prior to this, I was just trying to figure out what to do," he said.

At the Quad City Manufacturing Lab, he's right at the cutting edge of technology.

"Thanks to WIU, I was able to get this internship," he concluded.

For Ragle, hands-on experience to design a career.