University of Pittsburgh
April 17, 2001

PITT ENGINEERING SCHOOL OPENS PRODUCT INNOVATION CENTER High-tech suite of labs named for Pitt alum, ANSYS founder John Swanson

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PITTSBURGH, April 17, 2001-- The University of Pittsburgh's School of Engineering will formally dedicate the Swanson Center for Product Innovation at 9 a.m., on Wednesday, April 18, in Room B 62, Benedum Hall, Oakland.

The Center is named for John A. Swanson, the founder of ANSYS, Inc., who earned his Ph.D. in applied mechanics from Pitt in 1966, and whose vision and commitment to engineering education made the center a reality. The Center includes four state-of-the-art laboratories, all interconnected to allow students, faculty, and staff to take products from the idea stage through prototype and into production. Through the Center, students and faculty will work on projects of their own design as well as projects contracted through local and national companies and inventors.

"The Swanson Center is the latest example of the ways in which the University of Pittsburgh is contributing to the economic revitalization of our home region," Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said. "We are extremely grateful to John Swanson for his support of this effort. It is particularly appropriate that the Center bears the name of one of our most distinguished alumni whose own career as a researcher and entrepreneur embodies the concepts and qualities that the Center is designed to promote."

"We hope that the Swanson Center for Product Innovation will build the relationship of the School of Engineering with our industrial partners, helping them to be successful in developing technology and fostering economic development in this area," said Gerald Holder, USX Dean of the School of Engineering. "However, this center also will educate our undergraduates in the process of product design and innovation, and support our research efforts in biologically based micro electromechanical systems, manufacturing, and digital device development. With the proposed minor in product innovation, our graduates will be in a position to make important contributions to companies that are trying to develop and market new products."

The dedication will feature remarks from Nordenberg, Holder, and Michael Lovell, director of the Center, in addition to poster presentations from student projects developed during the past academic year. Already, students have worked with the McGowan Center for Artificial Organs to develop a heart pump, with Mine Safety Appliances in the redesign of a safety hard hat, with the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute to design a new robotic eye, and with a local inventor to produce a prototype of a new bicycle transmission system.

Other companies involved in projects with the Swanson Center are Bally Design, Conlin Corp., J. Edgar Snyder & Associates, LevelTek, Maya Design, NutrEn Technology, OMEX, OnGuard Systems, PPG, the Pittsburgh Zoo, Respironics, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute, and Vocollect.

The laboratories of the Swanson Center include:

- The Whitaker Design and Multimedia Laboratory, in which students develop ideas into plans for a prototype. Advanced computational capabilities allow the students to manipulate the dimensions and materials to ensure their designs will function as they are intended, and the multimedia room provides students with the knowledge and experience in presenting their ideas to corporate sponsors or potential investors;

- The W.M. Keck Rapid Prototyping and Reverse Engineering Laboratory, in which the computerized design is developed into a functioning example of the final product. The reverse engineering capabilities allow students to create computerized drafts of existing products to speed up production of improvements to the product;

- The Kresge Rapid Manufacturing Laboratory which allows students to produce small batches of the finished product; and

- The Micro Electro Mechanical Systems Laboratory, which will create microscopic machines that can perform tasks such as sensing their environment with pressure and acceleration sensors -- to biomedical applications that dispense drugs and perform analysis on tissue and body fluids.

John Swanson, internationally recognized as an authority and innovator in the application of finite-element methods to engineering, endowed a Ph.D. fellowship for Pitt Engineering students last year.

In 1998, the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering honored Swanson, of Elizabeth, PA, with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. Swanson is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In 1994, he was one of Industry Week's Top 5 R&D Stars in the US, and in 1986-1987, ASME named Swanson Pittsburgh Engineer of the Year.

Swanson won the Computers in Engineering award for outstanding contributions to the engineering and computing industries, and in 1988 was named Pittsburgh Entrepreneur of the Year in High Technology by the Entrepreneurial Services Group of Arthur Young and Venture Magazine.