Knowing what’s new is a matter of survival in today’s era of global manufacturing world for Roy Alward and his son, Dan, who have run their own tooling and machining business for the past 13 years.

“If you’re not on the cutting edge of technology — somebody’s going to slice you,” said Roy Alward of why he and his son were at TECHfest Wednesday in Meadville. The two operate Alward Tool near Crossingville.

TECHfest, held at the Precision Manufacturing Institute and Edinboro University in Meadville campuses at Meadville’s Bessemer Center, offered almost three dozen free seminars on everything from improving a business to the demonstrations in the latest technology.

Dan Alward said he was impressed not only with the technology, but seminars on such diverse topics as hard milling with ceramics to online marketing to how to run a successful organization.

“You’ve got to see what’s going on in the trade,” said Dan Alward. “You have to keep up to date on what’s new to stay competitive.”

TECHfest’s goal is to promote the idea of “advanced diversified manufacturing,” according to Tammy Adams, executive director of the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association which coordinated the event.

It’s to create an awareness of careers available in all manufacturing industries — not just tooling and machining, she said.

“This has succeeded beyond our expectations,” Adams said of Wednesday’s event.

There were more than 400 area students who toured the festival Wednesday, she said.

In addition, there were 250 people who had pre-registered for various seminars, plus an untold number of walk-ins, she said. The exact number of persons attending couldn’t be determined because there were so many entrances to the festival, she said.

The festival impresses others, too — of all ages — especially with its hands-on demonstrations.

“Who knew a (trailer) hitch core could be welded by pushing a button?,” said D.J. Cochran, a Linesville High School senior who studies computer information science at the Crawford County Career and Technical Center.

Cochran also got to do forensic blood testing by remotely putting samples in a testing tray.

Jim Crowl of Saegertown, a mold designer in the tooling industry, was taken with virtual welding.

It’s used for training without the expense of materials or potential harm to the person learning the trade, said Marty Siddell, a spokesman for Lincoln Electric, the company that developed the device. It uses a welding torch and materials, but a computer program generates a simulated weld on the material as the torch is applied.

“It’s a lot like the real thing,” Crowl said after trying his hand at it. “It felt like the real thing.”

Adams said the NTMA hopes to turn TECHfest into an annual event to showcase the latest manufacturing technology.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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