NORTH KINGSTOWN – Last Thursday, the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence division in North Kingstown hosted an all-day event that presented guests from the engineering and manufacturing community with a full day of educational and hands-on sessions.
With production facilities and commercial operations across five continents, Hexagon is a global company that specializes in metrology–or the science of measurement–including sensor, software and autonomous solutions.
“We are putting data to work to boost efficiency, productivity and quality across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, safety and mobility applications,” Hexagon’s website reads. “Our technologies are shaping urban and production ecosystems to become increasingly connected and autonomous — ensuring a scalable, sustainable future.”
The day-long event last week, which was called the HxGN LIVE Smart Manufacturing Day, featured a keynote address from University of Rhode Island President David Dooley, guided tours of Hexagon’s Quonset Point facility and a technology showcase. Tours spotlighted Hexagon’s portable scanning arms and white light systems, laser trackers and manufacturing intelligence software, and automated coordinate measuring machines.
In his address to the guests, Dooley spoke on the importance of URI’s engineering department partnering with companies like Hexagon.
“In the 21st century globally competitive economies, in which we all work and which those who follow us will work, partnerships between universities and companies like Hexagon are increasingly important,” Dooley said.
Dooley said that, through internship programs, capstone projects and different programs, URI has worked with companies like Hexagon to simultaneously give students on-hand experience and provide assistance to private, nonprofit and government ventures.
The Business Engagement Center, which was established in 2013, particularly went a long way in connecting outside entities with the university, allowing students to gain experiential knowledge at a professional level.
“It serves as the front door for any member of the private sector, the nonprofit sector or government […] to contact the university and make use of the university’s resources,” Dooley said. “Whether it’s looking for interns, whether it’s looking for employees, whether it means joint ventures, whether it’s about research or access to equipment. All of those things–through one phone call, one website–gets you connected to everything the university has to offer.”
“We have partnerships with global institutions on practically every continent,” he continued. “That brings people to Rhode Island from around the world, and we send our students and faculty across the world.”
Dooley went on to say that, since becoming president of URI in 2009, he has made it a priority to expand the engineering department.
“When I came to URI in 2009, I came from an institution where engineering had been a major focus, and I was a little bit dismayed,” he said, “by, one, the size of the engineering programs at URI–they weren’t nearly large enough–and secondly, the nature of the facilities. Those were simply unacceptable.”
The engineering department has grown from 900 undergraduates to 1,600 in just five years, and has become increasingly diverse. A new engineering complex was also constructed on campus, which opened this year.
Another area Dooley has focused on is expanding the internship program, which has also grown a great deal in just a few years.
“One of the things we’ve really emphasized at URI, across the board, has been experiential learning. A few years ago, we had maybe 2,000 students who did internships,” he said. “Today, that number is 10,000. Engineering and business have led the way.”
In order to produce “a very different kind of engineer,” Dooly said, the university has utilized an “absolutely unique” program, called International Engineering.
International Engineering is a five-year program that allows students to graduate with two bachelor’s degrees, one in science and engineering and the other in a foreign language, including Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish.
“It produces a very different kind of engineer–a globally competent, globally mobile engineer, comfortable living outside of a country in which they grew up and competent in at least two languages,” he said. “It’s exactly the kind of engineer America needs to produce more of.”
Students who choose to go into the International Engineering program spend one year abroad taking courses, generally speaking, in the language of that country, after which they take an internship in said country.
Hexagon, according to Dooley, has been a major partner in the International Engineering program.
He went on to map out the program, using two recent graduates as examples–one who went to China and the other to Germany.
Both students started with a summer internship at the Hexagon branch in North Kingstown during the summer between junior and senior years. After that, the students studied in China and Germany, respectively, which then led to internships at Hexagon branches in the two countries.
Finally, the students completed their fifth year at URI with a capstone project while concurrently interning at Hexagon for a few hours a week.
“One of the other ways in which we collaborate with Hexagon, and many other companies, has been in the capstone projects,” Dooley said. “These are projects that companies bring to the faculty and students of the college of engineering and say, ‘here’s the problem, which we need a solution to, and we would like you to work on them.’”
One of the highlighted students even went on to accept a job at Hexagon after graduating.
Following Dooley’s keynote address, guests went on guided tours of the facility, including the factory floor.
Different technologies and products that were shown during the tours included various scanners, such as the Absolute Arm 7-Axis, AICON PrimeScan and the GLOBAL S, among many, many others.
The Absolute Arm is the company’s flagship arm, which delivers tactile probing and laser scanning for specialized applications, while the AICON PrimeScan provides an entry-level solution for highly precise three-dimensional digitization of industrial components.
In other words, the different scanners collect surface data of various components for a computer-aided drafting (CAD) model, while capturing as much information as possible.
“It gives you a three-dimensional color map,” said Shawn Grady, a sales engineer of Hexagon. “It’s a quick way to scan the part and determine what’s good or bad.”
Grady also said that tools like these were great for reverse engineering components.
And as a coordinate measuring machine, the GLOBAL S provides measurement productivity tailored to different workflow, addressing a wide range of production requirements, including throughput, precision, multi-purpose and shop-floor capabilities.
There was also an emphasis on the PC-DMIS, a metrology software that enables dimensional measurement data to flow through an organization.
Hexagon’s all-new robotic loading cell also made its New England debut during the event.
Angus Taylor, the CEO and president of Hexagon Metrology, North America, said that everything on display represented massive growth since he first became involved in the business in 1987.
“I’ve seen this transformation,” Taylor said. “I think what’s most important for this particular event is that you have an idea of where we’re actually going and what our technology is going to do in the future.”
He also said that the company has been very fortunate to partner with academic institutions like URI.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate to bring some academia in here [...] where our partnerships together with education is going to help forge the future,” he said. “These are things that I’m very passionate about.”
“It’s with that level of partnership that companies like Hexagon thrive, because the end product is people that make a company like Hexagon strong,” he said. “What they deliver as an end product as graduating students become the core of what our company has become over time.”
For more information on the Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence division, visit https://www.hexagonmi.com/en-US.