Published August 21, 2014
Buffalo was once the mecca of helicopter design and manufacturing.
So it’s fitting that the future of helicopters, an aircraft largely unchanged in the last 40 years, was a central topic at The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) annual conference on advanced manufacturing and design at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Hosted by UB, and co-organized by Venkat Krovi, UB associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the four-day event began Sunday and concluded on Wednesday. It featured up to 2,000 engineers, ranging from Fortune 500 company executives and world-class scholars, to successful entrepreneurs and aspiring students.
Dan Bailey, who leads the Pentagon’s estimated $100 billion effort to build the next generation of helicopters, spoke about the need to modernize the aircraft to fit today’s military needs. The effort, known as the “future vertical lift” program, could radically redesign an aircraft that remains similar to the helicopters developed in Western New York by Bell Aircraft in the aftermath of World War II.
“There’s a bit of innovation that’s going to be required,” said Bailey, who spoke during a panel with Robert Brady, retired executive chairman of Moog Inc., and Russ Agrusa, founder, president and CEO of ICONICS, a software development company with headquarters in Massachusetts.
UB Provost Charles Zukoski, who spoke before the panel, said that UB is uniquely positioned to help companies achieve their manufacturing goals, as well as train tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.
For example, he spotlighted UB’s commitment to life sciences, particularly the move of UB’s medical school to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and other partnerships such as the university’s involvement with New York Genome Center, which aims to transform biomedical research and clinical care.
“At UB, we’re dedicated to addressing major global problems with our research and the education we provide,” Zukoski said.
Agrusa, who graduated from UB in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, spoke about society’s thirst for data and how ICONICS is working with business that include everything from wind power companies to automobile parts manufacturers.
Brady described how East Aurora-based Moog transformed from a defense company with $25 million in sales in 1965 to a multibillion dollar global corporation that works with NASA, Formula One racing, Airbus and numerous other clients.
The three speakers, and dozens more throughout the conference, offered their own perspective on their work and the future of advanced manufacturing and design. But it was J. Robert “Bob” Sims, ASME president, who perhaps summed up the conference’s underlying theme.
“The public demands safe, reliable solutions and engineers are uniquely positioned to provide those solutions,” he said.