One-of-a-kind machine offers a unique training environment

A one-of-a-kind, $1 million machine is creating innovative educational opportunities at New College Institute (NCI).

This past week NCI hosted an expert seminar in web dynamics for process technicians, operators and engineers from Eastman. The 15 participants studied the science of conveyance, which is the study of transporting materials from point A to point B. After participating in morning classroom sessions, the learning went into action with lab work in the afternoons.

Using the academic coater, a specialized training machine, the participants were able to troubleshoot with potential quality issues (such as wrinkling or misalignment) and then manipulate the machine to correct these issues.

"NCI is proud to host this customized seminar, which aligns with our goals to provide training to support local industry growth. All of us at NCI want to support the employers we have so that they stay in our community, and we want them to grow and to thrive. This is what will ultimately recruit new industries to our area," said Dr. Leanna Blevins, acting director of NCI.

"This seminar is a shortened version of a whole semester's worth of material to be gained from graduate engineering school," shared Ralph Schultz, Eastman senior staff engineer and seminar instructor.

According to Schultz, this lab approach differentiates this seminar from all other limited offerings at the national level. Here at NCI, students may use true equipment capable to produce film. Instructors can then assemble academic modules to align with the equipment. "This is what makes the academic coater at NCI unique; it does not exist like this anywhere else," added Schultz.

"The academic coater at NCI allows for practical application, which allows Eastman to train our employees and improve our product quality," said Shane Day, machine technician at Eastman.

In addition to the unique experience added by the academic coater, such training is useful to Eastman because the company previously had to send employees to New York and other localities for similar training, said Schultz.

Future seminars will be scheduled for the spring and fall of each year. These seminars will provide entry level to expert level training in coating, conveyance, laminating, and drying. Sessions are open to the public but can also be made available privately for specific employers.

These advanced manufacturing seminars represent the second phase of development as part of the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing (CAFM). CAFM is a collaborative effort involving NCI, Patrick Henry Community College, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, and Eastman to provide hands-on workforce training within advanced manufacturing.

The first phase of CAFM consisted of the development of a 28 credit hour educational program with a specialized focus on advanced film manufacturing. Among the first cohort of students, 92% accepted jobs at Eastman. This represents great success for both job seekers and Eastman according to Blevins. The CAFM program kicked off their second cohort of students this past September. More information is available at


About New College Institute:

NCI is a state-funded educational entity that provides access to bachelor's and master's degrees; teacher endorsement and recertification programs; industry certifications; dual enrollment courses; and more through partnerships with state universities. NCI strives to increase access to education through counseling, community outreach, and experiential learning programs. NCI staff, faculty, and board members are all committed to making NCI a premier educational facility for students, businesses, and the community at large.

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