Opening new doors: Kansas State University, industry partners celebrate Bulk Solids Innovation Center launch

By Julee Cobb

Collaborators on the Bulk Solids Innovation Center project cut the purple ribbon, signifying its official opening. Featured in the photo, from left to right: Hank Corcoran Boyer, Todd Smith, general manager of Coperion K-Tron Salina; Jon Blanchard, mayor of Salina; Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina; Jeff Thompson, president of Vortex Valves; Trey Mowery, Salina Economic Development Corporation; Jeff Gillam, president of Jones Gillam Renz Architects; Tim Bruce, Ron Fowles Construction; Monte Shadwick, chairman of the Saline County Commission; Don Weiser, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO; Mike Hoppock; Doug McKinney, executive director of North Central Regional Planning Commission; and Joyce Volk.

Collaborators on the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center cut the purple ribbon on the project, signifying its official opening. Featured in the photo, from left to right: Hank Corcoran Boyer, All America Team; Todd Smith, general manager of Coperion K-Tron Salina; Jon Blanchard, mayor of Salina; Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State Salina; Jeff Thompson, president of Vortex Valves; Trey Mowery, Salina Economic Development Corporation; Jeff Gillam, president of Jones Gillam Renz Architects; Tim Bruce, Ron Fowles Construction; Monte Shadwick, chairman of the Saline County Commission; Don Weiser, Salina Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO; Mike Hoppock, executive vice president of Land Title Services; Doug McKinney, executive director of North Central Regional Planning Commission; and Joyce Volk, All America Team.

Known as the only facility of its kind in all of North America, Kansas State University is enhancing is educational offerings in an exclusive way with the opening of its new Bulk Solids Innovation Center in north Salina. On May 14, dignitaries from K-State Salina, the city of Salina and various industries gathered for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebrating the opening of the center.

“This is a great day; one that we have been looking forward to for a number of years,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, K-State Salina’s dean and CEO, during the commemoration. “The K-State Salina campus has been working constantly to connect education with industry and the wonderful thing about this facility is that it is bringing quite a few collaborators together.”

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center serves a multitude of purposes that will benefit students, industry professionals, university research and the Salina economy. Curriculum associated with the science and understanding of bulk solids is being created for engineering technology students and along with classes, students will assist with research projects as outside companies partner with the center to conduct product testing. Professional development courses will be taught onsite and the facility will attract 40 new, quality jobs to the area.

The center is a two-story building with 13,000-square-feet and houses six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research; training and education, conference and lecture rooms; a material properties test lab; and a full-scale bulk solids test bay. Bulk solids are loose, dry commodities like sugar, minerals, pigments and recycled plastics that account for more than 80 percent of items transported around the world.

“A few years ago, not very many people knew what bulk solids are, and now we have the best center in the world dedicated to that industry,” said Todd Smith, general manager of Coperion K-Tron Salina, one of the anchor occupants of the facility. “Companies have challenges with bulk solids and they will use this facility to help solve their issues. There is great demand for this and now we have a way to address it.”

“I have just been amazed at the amount of interest in this facility from a corporate level,” said Kurt Barnhart, K-State Salina’s associate dean of research and engagement. “We’re going to be connected with the College of Agriculture’s Particle Technology Lab, grain sciences and other facilities in Manhattan to make sure we approach this across the spectrum holistically, and then we can really meet the needs of industry.”

Ground was broken on the facility in July 2014 and since then, manufacturers from across the globe have supplied more than $2.5 million in equipment donations. The innovation center is a project of Kansas State University with partners the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Salina Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the state of Kansas and the city of Salina.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony concluded, attendees were invited to take a tour of the building. On June 24, the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center will host a corporate open house for industry partners and companies interested in collaborating with the facility and sponsoring research. Short courses through K-State Salina’s professional education and outreach department are scheduled to begin this summer and the university is currently conducting an international search for a faculty researcher.

To learn more about bulk solids education and the facility’s research capabilities, contact Barnhart at 785-826-2972 or kurtb@k-state.edu.