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K-Tron, KSU, partners build bulk solids innovation center

October 2, 2013

Manhattan-based Kansas State University (KSU), together with K-Tron, the Salina Chamber of Commerce and the Salina, Kan., Economic Development Corp. as well as several other private companies, is planning a new facility in Salina that will benefit companies that design and utilize systems for bulk solids. Bulk solids are loose, dry commodities or ingredients such as sugar, starch, minerals, chemicals, pigments, fillers, plastic resin and recycled plastics.

The center will be used to study and increase the understanding of bulk solids materials handling and, in turn, enhancing the competitiveness of those businesses that use bulk solid materials or manufacture the systems that convey, store and dispense them, K-Tron says.

Primary partners in the projected $3.5 million, 13,000-sq.-ft. facility are KSU, the Salina Chamber of Commerce, Salina Economic Development Corp. and several private companies, including K-Tron. The facility will be called the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center.

The university will be the key tenant in the center with various offices and research suites for permanent and visiting researchers, companies and other users. Two local companies, K-Tron and Vortex Valves, will be initial anchor tenants, conducting both their own research as well as collaborative research with the university.

The building will include open and enclosed lab areas to allow for collaborative and proprietary research projects by the building's tenants. The open area will also allow for the more exploratory/open access research conducted by university investigators and students. It is envisioned that this area will also act as an open innovation center where the university and industry can work together on projects.

The center will incorporate KSU faculty expertise from technology, engineering and agriculture programs. It will focus on the process industries of plastics, foods and chemicals and will complement the College of Agriculture's Bulk Solids and Particle Technology Lab and program housed on the university's Manhattan campus.

"The center is another vehicle for Kansas State University to engage with industry by doing what it does best, and that's offering solutions and answers based on the best research," says Richard Potter, director of corporate engagement for the university.

"The construction of this facility will allow the Kansas State University Salina campus to take a major step forward and contribute to K-State 2025 by connecting industry with education," says Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of K-State-Salina.

A facility and programs for bulk solids research are greatly needed, notes Todd Smith, general manager of K-Tron Salina and vice president of K-Tron Global Systems. Very few bulk solid research centers exist in the world, and this would be the only university-level research center for bulk solids in the U.S.

"Industry leaders all over the country recognize that formal education and research in this area are lacking, and they need the improvements that this center can bring," Smith says. "A number of them already have research projects in mind, and they like the idea of having an independent center where they can send their materials for analysis and recommendations. Having Kansas State University lead the center is a great way to get the results we need."