SKF Aerospace, a leading global supplier of bearings, seals and structural components for aviation engines and frames, has partnered with Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, to develop an applied-research aerospace center at Knowledge Park.
The SKF North America Aerospace Innovation Center is a 1,400-square foot research space in a $40 million technology complex. It continues a pattern of international investment and expansion at Knowledge Park, a partnership of Penn State Behrend and the Greater Erie Industrial Development Corporation.
A dozen Penn State Behrend students and faculty members are currently working at the center, collaborating with SKF Aerospace teams in the United States and Europe to offer highly engineered customized solutions for aircraft, helicopter, engine and system manufacturers. One early project involved a student-built robot that automated a manufacturing process at SKF’s Falconer, N.Y., facility. It is expected to bring a 400 percent return on the company’s initial investment.
“Penn State Behrend and Knowledge Park offer a unique opportunity to collaborate on research and product development projects that not only support our technology road map, but also create a pipeline of future talent for SKF engineering,” said Greg Zimmerman, manager of product development at SKF Aerospace NA in Falconer. He oversees work at the Knowledge Park lab.
The center is directly connected to SKF technical labs in France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Ongoing projects could bring advancements in composites, steel and heat treatments, testing and sensor technology.
“This partnership is a true win-win,” said Ralph Ford, director of the School of Engineering and associate dean for industry and external relations at Penn State Behrend. “Our students and faculty benefit from the expertise and knowledge of SKF Aerospace and its employees. At the same time, their work is advancing the technology that supports SKF’s business objectives.”
The center also supports the larger mission of Knowledge Park, which now has 19 corporate tenants with more than 500 employees. Penn State Behrend leases the land to GEIDC, which developed and manages the properties.
“The goal of Knowledge Park at Penn State Behrend is to foster technical innovation and support collaboration between industry and the intellectual resources available on the adjoining Penn State campus,” said John Elliott, president and CEO of GEIDC. “While some limited space is still available for lease, the ‘open lab’ initiative at Penn State Behrend is sending a powerful message worldwide. Our next focus is on Knowledge Park expansion.”