Kalamazoo-based WMU Opens Manufacturing Lab in Downtown Grand Rapids


Kalamazoo’s Western Michigan University Wednesday announced it has opened its 15,000-square-foot AMP Lab in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Laboratory comes a year after the university announced a collaborative effort with Grand Rapids Community College and western Michigan manufacturers to address talent needs in the manufacturing industry.

The lab occupies the first two floors of WMU’s downtown Grand Rapids location.

“This cutting-edge instructional laboratory has been designed to meet the demands identified by manufacturing leaders, not only locally, but around the globe, to educate the 21st-century advanced-manufacturing workforce,” says Edward Montgomery, president of WMU. “WMU is excited to collaborate with Grand Rapids Community College and our community’s manufacturing leaders to bring this type of experiential learning to the region.”

Students can earn credits toward a degree or certification at the lab, which offers prototyping, training, and small-scale manufacturing. It has 3-D printers and scanners, and CAD/CAM lab, plasma cutter, laser cutter, welding station, metrology equipment, and prototyping tools.

“The AMP lab is an excellent example of how communities grow stronger when people come together,” says Bill Pink, president of Grand Rapids Community College. “We’re partnering with Western Michigan University and our region’s employers to give residents skills they need for great jobs as well as their first steps in higher education and pursuit of lifelong learning.”

Early this month, the community college began using the space three days a week for its AMP program cohorts. In January, WMU will offer courses for a certificate program in integrated design and manufacturing. In addition, manufacturing engineering technology, engineering design technology, and engineering management technology courses will be offered at the facility for students enrolled in WMU’s engineering technology degree program.

“At full strength, the space will be used for six to eight WMU undergraduate courses a semester with class sizes of 16 to 24,” says Steven Butt, chair and professor of WMU’s Department of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management. “GRCC will also be offering associate degrees and manufacturing courses. In addition to college courses, workshops, specialized trainings, product design, and manufacturing consulting will occur in the space.”

The $2.7-million lab development and its equipment were partially funded through private investment and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The space can also be used by entrepreneurs who need manufacturing assistance.

The building that houses the lab began as the Brown and Sehler Co., a wholesale manufacturer of horse harnesses and collars from 1925-1935.  Various businesses moved in and out of the building for the next 40 years before H.H. Cutler Co., an infant and children’s clothing manufacturer, occupied the space until 1995. The University moved into the building in May 2001.