From research to product testing to education and training, the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is celebrating five years of contributions to the particle technology industry.
The only facility of its kind in North America, the center opened in June 2015 after breaking ground on the project in north Salina less than a year prior. With 13,000 sq ft of laboratories, a testing bay, and conference and lecture rooms, the center's mission has been to study the science of bulk solids handling, while offering innovative solutions to customers that improve bulk solids storage, flow, and conveying.
"Bulk solids make up more than 80% of items transported around the world, yet formal education and research in this area is not completely understood," said Raju Dandu, the facility's director. "This recognition, along with the university's land-grant mission and Salina's history of being a large flour milling hub, propelled the need to create the center. In collaboration with several entities, over the years the bulk solids innovation center has been able to provide value-added solutions and services that enhance efficiency and productivity in a variety of industries as well as contribute to local economic growth and foster education."
The two-story facility has six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research, a material properties testing laboratory, and a full-scale bulk solids test bay. The center has partnered with several companies over the last five years to provide research and consulting services ranging from small scale sample material characterization to full-scale material handling and storage. Most recently, the center teamed up with a global chemical company to supply testing services, including equipment improvements, for one of its more challenging products.
In addition to supporting customers, the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center offers professional development courses. In January 2016, the center hosted its first industry short course on bulk solids handling and it exceeded capacity expectations with students from 13 states participating. Since then, nearly 350 people from 42 states and several countries have attended more than 20 classes, and current course topics now include Foundations of Pneumatic Conveying, Advanced Pneumatic Conveying, and Storage and Flow of Bulk Solids.
"It has been fun seeing industry's enthusiasm about the bulk solids innovation center and its capabilities," said Todd Smith, business and strategy manager at the facility. "Many companies want to contribute equipment and we are continually being asked to add new methods, courses and testing capacity. Our goal for the center is to become the country's known leader for bulk solids technology — within four years, we want to be the place industry thinks of first."
Since the facility is university connected, it also provides a space where students at the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus in Salina can gain hands-on experience and build employable skills, while supporting the center's daily functions and its important research. Currently, the center employs three student interns who perform lab tests for customers and assist in project phases, from equipment design and setup all the way through to test execution and data collection and analysis. Additionally, students in the engineering technology programs at K-State Polytechnic often utilize the bulk solids innovation center for their senior design course projects.
Along with Dandu, who also is a professor of mechanical engineering technology at Kansas State Polytechnic, and Smith, the center employs lab manager, Kevin Solofra. His position is new, joining the team in February. Solofra's professional experience ranges from research engineering with product scale-up through process and production management.
The establishment of the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center was a partnership between the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the state of Kansas and city of Salina. In addition, many industry partners have donated equipment, services, and instruction. For more information on the center's research capabilities or educational courses, contact the bulk solids innovation center at [email protected]