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Ferris State University Alumnus Donates $130K-Plus in High-Powered Equipment to Alma Mater to Better Train Future Technology Engineers

Matt Howlett visit

Pictured (left to right) are Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Bobby Fleischman, College of Engineering Technology faculty member Luke Hedman, President Bill Pink, alumnus and 3DXTech President Matt Howlett, Ferris Vice President for University Advancement and Marketing Kathy Mullins and Michael Staley, dean of the College of Engineering Technology. This photo was taken during Howlett's Wednesday, June 7 visit to show off the Gearbox technology he and his company donated to Ferris.

For Class of 1996 alumnus Matt Howlett, Ferris State University has always felt like family, like a home away from home. Now in a position to give back, Howlett couldn’t pass up an opportunity to donate a six-figure high-caliber 3D printer to the College of Engineering Technology, which paves the way for future Ferris alums to graduate a step ahead of the competition from other colleges and universities.

Valued at nearly $130,000, 3DXTech’s Gearbox HT2 Printer System brings the faculty, staff and students of the College of Engineering Technology within arm’s reach of cutting-edge technology that will provide the training graduates need after college.

“We created this 3D printer to answer the question of how to enable the printing of higher-performance materials. Ferris has always been great for my family. I have my son who went here, and he has a family now,” said Howlett, president of 3DXTech, a leading supplier of carbon fiber reinforced 3D printing filaments. “I understand this technology and what it can do for students and really help bring up their level of understanding and education in this technology. When I could, I wanted to make sure I gave back to Ferris, so I donated one of the Gearbox HTG2 3D printers, which is now installed in the Additive Lab. The students now can coalesce around it and learn the technology better.”

Matt Howlett and President Bill Pink with the Gearbox

Howlett, who has been working with Luke Hedman, an assistant professor in Product Design Engineering Technology who also runs Ferris’ Makerspace area, returned to the National Elastomer Center on campus to showcase the Gearbox HT2 Printer System to Ferris administrators, alumni, faculty, staff and students in the Additive Lab. Howlett didn’t return alone, however. He brought with him alumni working for 3DXTech: his son Brandon Funke, sales manager and a Class of 2019 Plastics Engineering Technology alumnus; Rachel Rogers, a design engineer and a Class of 2020 Product Design Engineering Technology alumna; and Ezra Scott, the product design engineering manager and a Class of 2017 alumnus of the Automotive Engineering Technology program and Patrick Banta, content marketing specialist and a Class of 2018 alumnus of the Marketing program.

Ferris President Bill Pink was enthusiastic about Howlett’s donation benefiting current and future students, his commitment to and belief in Ferris and the ability and potential of Ferris graduates.

“This is a great example of what is being done around our campus, which is calling our alumni back in to not only celebrate them and what they’re doing, but in Matt’s case, we have an alum who is coming back and saying, ‘By the way, here’s what I’m doing now and here’s who I’ve hired and here is who I’ve focused on hiring,’ which is Ferris State graduates. Matt shows us the value of the Ferris State education that goes beyond just walking across the stage, getting a diploma and walking out into the company, to the business, to the industry. Our graduates are doing amazing things.”

Pink also noted the importance of collaboration, the joining of like-minded brands.

“When you have a strong brand like what Matt has at 3DXTech and a strong brand like what we have at Ferris State University, and our College of Engineering Technology, there are some really good things that happen,” he said.

Howlett is excited about the ongoing partnership and how it will help raise the bar and create greater opportunities for well-trained Ferris graduates.

“The Gearbox HT2 Printer System really steps it up,” he said. “This is a six-figure machine with seven-figure capabilities. It enables students to learn how to get their hands around engineering-grade and high-performance materials that companies like SpaceX and Lockheed Martin use every day.”

Part of Pink’s approach is outreach to create and strengthen partnerships across the university.

“We can’t do our work without partnerships. Matt is a graduate, and he’s a partner of this institution. He is partnering with our amazing faculty to provide experiences to students while they’re interns and students here,” the president said.

Howlett sees himself as a Bulldog for Life, having benefited from the Ferris experience inside and outside the classroom.

“Ferris State University provides the foundation to build good families and communities,” he said.

For more information about 3DXTech, College of Engineering Technology academic programs and giving at Ferris, visit the respective websites.