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Denso Lab Promotes Student Success

Published: May 1, 2015

The College of Engineering’s DENSO Design and Manufacturing Laboratory has demonstrated since its opening last year how corporate support can reinforce the university’s mission of promoting student success.

DENSO has been a strong supporter of CSULB’s College of Engineering. Through the DENSO Foundation, the company has donated between $25,000 and $50,000 annually for a number of years in support of student activities, the college’s lecture series, its Innovation Challenge competition and other areas. University officials indicated the company’s support has been instrumental in defining the college’s presence in the area of design and manufacturing.

The lab offers CSULB students a place for computer-aided design, manufacturing and non-destructive testing. Facilities include an assembly robot, a CNC milling machine (a computer-controlled vertical mill with the extra freedom to precisely machine parts) and different 3D printers with the ability to rapidly prototype three-dimensional solid objects of virtually any shape from a digital model.

Other nearby equipment includes a plasma cutter to cut steel and other materials of different thicknesses, along with a variety of equipment for testing parts without physically impacting them. Students using the lab have the opportunity to study such cutting-edge fields as additive manufacturing which is a process of making a three-dimensional parts with complicated contours and inner hollow structures which can’t be manufactured by any other traditional machining processes.

DENSO, headquartered in Japan, is a leading global automotive supplier of advanced technology, systems and components in the areas of thermal, powertrain control, electronics and information and safety. DENSO Products and Services Americas Inc., located in Long Beach, is the firm’s aftermarket headquarters for the Americas.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s Christiane Beyer, a member of the university since 2009, applauds the success of the new facility. “This lab supports the entire process, from design to advanced manufacturing,” said Beyer.

“I hope our students learn in the DENSO labs what is expected from them by industry. Learning how to use this equipment here serves as an entry ticket to getting a job.”

Beyer describes the DENSO lab equipment as cutting edge.

“What the students learn here makes them competitive with the rest of the nation,” she said. “They don’t just learn theory here. They gain hands-on experience. When our students move on to their senior design projects, they know how to use all the equipment in the lab. They develop in a two-semester course series new products or technologies with the implementation of all available software and hardware tools as well as manufacturing technologies.”

The DENSO labs are not only important to CSULB but to the university’s professional partners.

“These labs work to support the regional economy,” said Beyer. “On the West Coast, there are the automotive and aerospace industries, medical device and consumer product manufacturers. But we still lack sufficient expertise in advanced and additive manufacturing. We need to bring our students into contact with those technologies, especially here on the West Coast.”

Beyer argues that the U.S. manufacturing base has been eroding for years but labs like DENSO work to restore that base. “The DENSO labs serve to attract students to CSULB. They are excited to take on new projects here,” she said. “What makes CSULB different from other universities is an outstanding combination of teaching theoretical knowledge and hand-on experience in labs with outstanding equipment.”

With CSULB’s mission centered on student success, the College of Engineering needs corporate and community partners to provide a critical edge in student education, Beyer believes.

“This underlines the importance of our professional partners,” she said. “Look at the senior design classes. We work hard to introduce industry topics. We try to teach our students how to run these industry projects which gives industry a good opportunity to team up with CSULB.”

Beyer is especially pleased with the lab’s additive manufacturing (3D printing) training that enables students to prepare prototypes.

“Currently we work only with plastic components because metal machines are so much more expensive. But the procedure is the comparable,” she explained. “If the students learn to use the plastic machines, they will know how to move on to metal. These technologies offer so much potential to do so many things that traditional machines are not capable of. The new generation needs to know how to design for these new technologies and how to use them.”