Clearing hurdles with engineering student help

Ttarp employees pose for a group photo.

Published March 4, 2015 This content is archived.


Ttarp Co.’s two-year development of a cutting press hit a snag.

The project required the use of a recently installed computer-aided design program that’s not easy to learn. Ttarp President Joe McNamara didn’t have the spare manpower to train an employee on the software.

Instead, he found an out-of the-box solution: McNamara engaged a University at Buffalo engineering student who knows the program.

How did he do it?

McNamara took advantage of a grant available to small and mid-sized companies in New York State through TCIE. The Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) program lowers the cost for technical assistance provided by the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“We’re a small business. I don’t know if we would have done it without it,” McNamara said of SPIR.

Western New York companies facing similar challenges – whether they lack adequate manpower, time or expertise to rectify a recurring issue or pursue a technical-based goal – can apply to SPIR.

Grants up to $25,000 may be awarded to a variety of organizations including, but not limited to: manufacturers, financial institutions, government entities and nonprofits.

SPIR funds can be used to partially pay for undergraduate or graduate students working on short-term engineering projects, which typically last 12-16 weeks.

Funds may also be applied toward the one-semester TCIE Engineering Fellows Program. An outstanding master’s degree student or PhD candidate completes up to three engineering projects identified by the host company. Fellows work 20 hours per week on site, for a total of 320 hours. Fall or spring placements are available.

“The SPIR grant is an excellent, cost-effective way to access engineering talent,” said Timothy Leyh, UB TCIE executive director. “It also provides an avenue for companies to ‘test’ a potential future hire.”

The student working at Ttarp collaborated with welders, machinists, engineers and others on the factory floor to iron out obstacles as he digitized an evolving product design. The student also identified the most likely failures by using the software to simulate press operations, and compiled a book detailing standard press line work procedures.

“It’s a low-risk option to accomplish some good technical work without taking on permanent overhead until the demand justifies it,” McNamara said. “It’s a great way to fill in a technical capacity bubble.”