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Catching up to Europe, Asia

A recent conversation focused on why so many fluid power meetings and conferences seem centered on Europe. The simple answer:  fluid power education and research there is way ahead of us.

Hans-Joerg Zobel, president and CEO of Festo Corp., Hauppage, N.Y., confirmed that fact at the 45th anniversary celebration of MSOE's Fluid Power Institute. According to Zobel, out of more than 2500 universities in the U.S. with engineering departments, a mere 28 teach manufacturing. And depending on how you slice and dice the numbers, only 12 to 16 universities here teach fluid power. Now compare that to Europe, where fluid power is taught in 412 schools.

What's interesting is that, contrary to popular belief, all manufacturing has not vanished from American shores. In 2007, approximately 65,000 engineers will graduate in the U.S. Zobel said  the demand for new engineers this year is estimated at 384,000.

Take a look at the calendar, and see what research meetings are on the horizon. Here are the major fluid power events that have been scheduled this year through 2009:

10th Scandinavian International Conference on Fluid Power, Tampere, Finland

5th International Symposium on Fluid Power Transmission and Control, Beidaihe, China

Bath Power Transmission & Motion Control Symposium, Bath, United Kingdom

51st National Conference on Fluid Power, Las Vegas, USA

6th International Fluid Power Conference, Dresden, Germany

5th FPNI PhD Symposium, Krakow, Poland

7th JFPS International Symposium on Fluid Power, Toyama, Japan

11th Scandinavian International Conference on Fluid Power, Linkoping, Sweden

7th International Conference on Fluid Power Transmission and Control, Hangzhou, China

To be sure, there are a few other conferences that occur from time to time — SAE programs in the U.S., some more computational-oriented events in Denmark and Australia, and the excellent Aachen conference, next scheduled for 2010. But other than the lone IFPE-related event in Vegas, we in the U.S. have a long way to go.

Last year's 4th FPNI Symposium in Sarasota, Fla., was a great start, thanks in large part to the efforts of Purdue's Professor Monica Ivantysnova and Bob Koski of Sun Hydraulics Corp. And I hope that the various universities involved in the new Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power — Georgia Tech, MSOE, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Vanderbilt, etc. — can eventually host research- and application-oriented conferences of the magnitude that we commonly see in Europe and Asia. The annual meeting of the CCEFP may be able to play part of that role.

Another hopeful sign is the increasing popularity of the annual NFPA's Educator Summit. Some manufacturers and universities here realize the importance of growing fluid power's educational and research opportunities. It will be interesting to see who steps forward with the next U.S.based fluid power research conference — and when.