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Minnesota’s Hennepin Technical College (HTC) bolstered its status as a leading supplier of skilled workers to the region’s burgeoning plastics and medical device industries, recently adding another injection molding machine and extruder to its fully-equipped lab.
HTC’s Brooklyn Park campus added a 30-ton all-electric Toshiba EC30SX injection molding machine following NPE2015, where it bought the press off the show floor, and more recently it acquired a microbore medical tubing line donated from Boston Scientific, which it is currently installing in its 6800-ft2 processing lab.
The Toshiba press is the fourth machine that HTC has either purchased or received on consignment from Toshiba over the last three decades. “The Toshiba partnership is the longest running partnership for the plastics program,” explained Dan Ralph, an instructor in HTC’s plastics program for 29 years. “Toshiba has been very committed and very loyal to the plastics program, and we reciprocate that.”
As part of the arrangement, Toshiba provides free maintenance and seminars for students, while HTC keeps the lab open to Toshiba at all times for customer demos and mold trials. “Instead of having customers look at a brochure, Toshiba can say, ‘Come on over to the college; bring a mold; bring some material,” Ralph said. “We’ve done a lot of validation across the five-state area based on the fact that Toshiba has taken us up on that offer.” The 30-ton all-electric joins two hydraulic Toshiba presses, 120 and 250 tons, as well as another fully electric 110-ton system. Injection students can also utilize the lab’s three RJG eDart systems.
Newest Equipment, Certificate
The newest piece of primary processing equipment added to the lab is a 1-inch Harrel extruder with melt pump donated to HTC from Boston Scientific, which decommissioned the line from its Fremont, Calif. plant. That line, which joins 1- and ¾-inch Berlyn and Killion extruders, will be used during instruction towards HTC’s newest certificate, medical extrusion, which will launch for the fall of the upcoming school year.
HTC’s processing lab also features a compression and transfer molding machine; rotomolding machine, thermoformer, and blown film, sheet, compounding and profile extruders, in addition to Hyrobotics automation, and auxiliaries from Advantage, AEC, Conair, Novatec, Betalaser, and Versa, among others.
The fully equipped testing lab features equipment for analyzing tensile strength, compression, impact, hardness, melt flow index, specific gravity, moisture content, and more.
A Thriving Program
Founded in 1972, Hennepin Technical College is a public technical school, with two campuses in suburban Minneapolis. The largest technical college in the state, it was one of the original technical colleges to feature a plastics intensive program, according to Ralph.
Each semester, Ralph said the plastics specific programs enroll anywhere from 20 to 25 students, with roughly 25 to 35 students graduating each year. There are currently four different plastics related certificates available, as well as a diploma and an associate degree. At this time, HTC is working with multiple universities to allow credits earned at HTC to count towards four-year plastics programs.
In his nearly three decades at the HTC, Ralph only remembers one year where those completing the program did not enjoy 100 percent job placement, with graduates typically able to choose from four to five different offers when they’re finished at HTC.
The school’s Manufacturing & Engineering Technology program includes specific degrees and/or certificates for: Automation Robotics Engineering Technology, Electronics Technology, Engineering CAD Technology, Fluid Power Engineering Technology, Industrial Building Engineering and Maintenance, Machine Tool Technology & Quality Assurance, Manufacturing Engineering Technology, Plastics Engineering Technology and Welding & Metal Fabrication.
The diploma in Plastics Manufacturing Technology comprises plastic composition and behavior; the four plastics variables; setup and operation of machines and robots; and quality principles.
Apart from a diploma in plastics in engineering technology, students can also receive occupation certification in extrusion, injection molding, medical devices, as well as an advanced technical certificate as a scientific injection molding specialist.