Digital manufacturing, undivided

Iowa State industrial engineers will help new public-private lab design the future

From staff reports

A team led by Iowa State’s Matt Frank is developing a 3-D feedback software tool for designers that evaluates manufacturability and provides results graphically. The main photo shows a CNC machine, and in the inset photo, the team reviews one version of the software focused on the CNC machining of a component. 

Three industrial engineering departments are partners in a new digital manufacturing and design innovation national institute, and Janis Terpenny couldn’t be more pleased.

Terpenny, the Joseph Walkup Professor and Department Chair of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State University, is the technical lead for the advanced manufacturing enterprise area in the newly awarded Chicago-based team’s institute – the Digital Lab for Manufacturing, part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Defense will provide $70 million to UI Labs, while other industry, academic, government and community partners will pledge another $250 million.

UI Labs is a consortium of industries, universities and government agencies. Forty industry enterprises, more than 30 academic, government and community agencies, and hundreds of other organizations are partners in the Digital Lab for Manufacturing. Oregon State University has announced its Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering is involved as well. Purdue University’s next-generation manufacturing competitiveness center, In-MaC, will work with the digital design and manufacturing lab. Abhijit Deshmukh, head of Purdue’s industrial engineering department, co-directs In-MaC.

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing will focus on three areas, Terpenny said. According to the broad agency announcement of the plan, advanced analysis capitalizes on high-performance computing to develop physics-based models of material, product and process performance to design with manufacturing in mind. Intelligent machining supports the improvement and integration of smart sensors, controls, measurement and analysis for "self-aware manufacturing" that can provide continuous improvement and sustainability.

Terpenny’s area, advanced manufacturing enterprise, consists of agile and robust manufacturing strategies and integrated capabilities that dramatically reduce the cost and time of producing complex systems and parts. As a tier one partner, Iowa State has committed $10 million over five years, which includes people, time, indirect contributions and the use of university facilities.

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing’s goals are in line with what Terpenny has been passionate about for years – the link between design and manufacturing. That link is core to the theme of the Center for e-Design, an industry university cooperative research center funded by the National Science Foundation and members, where Terpenny is director.

With advanced methods and tools for digital manufacturing and design innovation, quality is not just a function of manufacture, she said. The digital thread that is at the core includes all of the information and decisions that support the product’s entire flow, its intent, design, flexibility and usage all the way through manufacturing, distribution and the product’s lifecycle.

Like any good IE expects, successful innovations will save time, reduce costs and improve quality.

"The Department of Defense and manufacturers nationwide are very interested in this, of course," Terpenny said. "And that’s because they have complex products, or systems if you will, that require the latest and greatest technologies that must be deployable, reliable, operational, adaptable and reconfigurable. The design through manufacture cycle will get products to the market or deployment faster and, once there, they will require less time to maintain."

The Digital Lab will focus primarily on applied rather than early stage research, she said, aiming to develop tools, methodologies and techniques that have a deliverable within a reasonable period. Technical leads will advise and help to manage projects, facilitate communication among project collaborators (industry, universities and government). Leads also will help researchers solve problems that stand in the way of project success.

"You know, there’s a lot of pressure that [the projects] do succeed. This will be a true team effort with many checks and balances."

After all, the Digital Lab for Manufacturing will have access to some of the best researchers in industry and academia, not to mention a wealth of resources.

"Actually, industry has already promised not just dollars but even technologies that they have developed that they will make available to the institute and the projects within the institute," Terpenny said.

Leaders for the new digital lab are examining best practices from other consortiums. Terpenny said the first calls for projects should be coming soon.

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing is one of three institutes in the federal government’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The others include the Lightweight & Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Detroit; the Next Generation Power Electronics National Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Raleigh, N.C.; and the Additive Manufacturing Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. More labs are planned for the future.