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Charles S. Hutchins
MDSI Co-Founder, Technology Advisor

Chuck Hutchins has been at the forefront of innovation in machine tool and NC technology for more than 40 years. He was the inventor of the part programming system that gave birth to CAM and is a driving force behind today's open architecture control movement. His work has had a profound influence on the productivity of thousands of companies and has enhanced the lives of tens of thousands of machinists.

Even as a child, Hutchins was fascinated by machine tools and manufacturing. He built his own wood turning lathe at the age 11. In 1957, he graduated from the University of Michigan College of Engineering with a major in machine design. That same year, he joined Buhr Machine Tool Company. Hutchins quickly became Buhr's NC expert, responsible for buying, tooling and programming the company's machine tools. Under his leadership, Buhr became a pioneer in the application of NC to the production of machine tool parts.

It was Hutchins' nine-year experience at Buhr which gave rise to the concept that would revolutionize NC machine tool programming. Through the long hours he spent struggling to make reliable NC tapes, Hutchins became acutely aware of the need to make NC programming more accessible to the average machinist. When Comshare introduced its computer timesharing technology in 1966, Hutchins saw his opportunity. He started exploring the possibility of installing an NC language processor on a timesharing computer. Many of Hutchins' colleagues scoffed at the idea, arguing that the timesharing system's small memory would never support an NC programming capability.

Hutchins set out to prove his critics wrong in 1967 when he began developing the Compact II NC programming language. A year later, Bruce Nourse, current MDSI vice president of R&D and system designer for OpenCNC, joined this effort. In 1969, Hutchins and entrepreneur Ken Stephanz became co-founders of the original company sharing the common name of Manufacturing Data Systems, Inc. This corporation is widely considered to be the pioneer of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). At its height in the early eighties, MDSI posted annual sales of $56 million and employed more than 800 people. In 1985, MDSI was listed number eight on Forbes magazine's ranking of the decade's 100 most successful initial public offerings (IPOs). More importantly, over a 15-year period, 20,000 machinists across the country and throughout the world were trained to capture their knowledge of metal cutting manufacturing processes in programs created through Compact II.

Hutchins retired at the age of 45, but he never lost his passion for machine tools and NC technology. In 1985, he began pursuing the idea that has become the basis for the new MDSI. This idea, born out of Hutchins' struggles to get information from traditional "black box" controls, was to provide an open architecture machine control. Today, MDSI's OpenCNC is the only machine control on the market that is purely a software solution and that works with off-the-shelf PC technology. OpenCNC will change the machine control industry in much the same way that Compact II changed NC programming: machine controls will no longer be the exclusive domain of experts. OpenCNC, like Compact II, puts CNC control where it belongs--in the hands of the people who operate the machines.

Making CNC productive for the people who use the technology...that was Chuck Hutchins' vision when he ushered in the era of CAM in 1969, and it's the vision behind MDSI's drive to change the machine control industry today.