LaViers' startup wins Chicago award for manufacturing innovation
AE Machines, a startup co-founded by Assistant Professor Amy LaViers, received the Product Design of the Year Award at the Fourth Revolution Awards in Chicago. The company was one of just seven leaders, companies, and industrial initiatives in the state to be honored.
AE Machines is working to empower small manufacturers to program and reprogram simple automated systems in-house. The program allows users to design their own automated system by building from either the software side or the hardware side of the program. LaViers founded the company with husband and CEO Eric Minnick. Their first product, AE Design Tool, was developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation.
“We've spent the past two years working with hobbyists and everyday users to figure out how to transition university robotics research into an automation system that anyone can operate and maintain without specialized training; the result of that process is the AE Design Tool. This award will help us achieve our next goal, which is to bring our approach to manufacturers in the region who want flexible automation cells that their existing workforce can maintain,” said LaViers, AE Machines CTO.
The Fourth Revolution Awards is an event celebrating innovation in manufacturing in the Chicago region. The Product Design of the Year Award recognizes a product design that is unique, improves user experience, and impacts productivity as well as the greater good.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was on hand to recognize the winners.
“The Illinois manufacturing industry is one of our state’s best assets, and innovative ideas and products are crucial for its continued growth,” said Rauner.
The inaugural awards were hosted by mHUB, UI Labs, and IMEC. UI Labs is an innovation accelerator leveraging partners from the University of Illinois and industry to address manufacturing and infrastructure problems. mHUB is a co-working community center for physical product development and manufacturing. IMEC provides organizations in Illinois with tools and techniques to create sustainable competitive futures.
LaViers directs the Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab at the University of Illinois. She has worked in the area of advanced manufacturing through an industry-university consortium and has forged interdisciplinary ties with university dance programs and the Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies, where she earned a certification in Laban Movement Studies in 2016.