Berkshire Innovation Center: Training underway, even without home

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PITTSFIELD While the Berkshire Innovation Center doesn't yet exist, that hasn't stopped people from tackling its mission.

Aspects of the center's programming are up and running thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Several training sessions held in collaboration with BIC partners have already taken place, and more are scheduled this fall.

Those partners include Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, McCann Technical School in North Adams, Taconic High School in Pittsfield and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Several pieces of high-tech equipment have been obtained by BCC and are located at Taconic High School, including a full color, multi-material 3D printer and a device known as a coordinate measuring machine that probes and records the physical characteristics of an object.

Those pieces will eventually be relocated to the BIC, according to Rod Jane, a consultant working on the center project.

The sessions began in September 2015, and so far 54 people have gone through them, including 10 who attended a six-week 3D printing course that took place in May and June, according to Denise Johns, BCC's director of corporate training.

Bill Knowles of Dalton, who works for BIC partner Cavallero Plastics of Pittsfield, completed the most recent 3D printer training.

Having access to this equipment and learning how to use it reduces the time it takes to develop products at Cavallero Plastics, he said, and makes it quicker to make changes to prototypes.

"We don't have to have a machinist carve (a project) out of solid plastic," he said. "We can send it to a 3D printer. Before it took days. Now it's only 15 to 20 minutes worth of changes."

"It's a very important program for Pittsfield," Knowles said of the center's training. "I'm not an official part of that, but I think there's huge value for our area and it's very important for growth of our community because local businesses couldn't afford to buy these machines."

The BIC has also held a well-attended speaker series at BCC, Jane said, and launched a website in May that provides a list of training sessions and events.

A program for 3D printer operators will be held Sept. 11, followed by a class on the use of coordinate measuring machines the next day.

For information on the training, visit www.berkshireinnovationcenter.com/events.

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at 413-496-6224.


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