Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech (6)

Boeing and Georgia Tech formally opened a new advanced development research center designed to solve some of the toughest technical challenges in manufacturing.

In the Boeing Manufacturing Development Center, company researchers and Georgia Tech engineering students will work together to implement automation in industrial applications. The center is located in Georgia’s Tech new 19,000-square foot Delta Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility.

“This advanced center will let Georgia Tech students collaborate with Boeing engineers to help drive the development of innovative factory automation solutions in aerospace,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief technology officer and senior vice president of Engineering, Test & Technology.

One of the first research projects will focus on utilizing industrial robotics for machining and fabrication applications that can be applied to the manufacturing processes at Boeing.

“Georgia Tech’s long and productive relationship with Boeing includes immersive educational support for our students, collaborative research, and development of aerospace innovations,” said Steve Cross, Georgia Tech executive vice president for Research. “Our relationship is an exemplar for industry-university engagement as we meet jointly shared aspirations for the future of education and the advancement of technology.”

Boeing is the 17th company to open an innovation center on Georgia Tech’s campus. The centers tap into the innovation neighborhood’s vibrant network of students, faculty and researchers, as well as area startups and established companies.

For more than 25 years, Boeing has supported a variety of manufacturing research activities at Georgia Tech, such as developing control systems on cranes, mobile platforms and robotics for moving parts in a factory environment, and active flow control for aircraft wing tips. The Institute is one of 10 primary strategic secondary schools that Boeing partners with on research worldwide.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered a new way to improve human and robot safety in manufacturing scenarios by developing a method for robots to project their next action into the 3D world and onto any moving object.

“We can now use any item in our world as the ‘display screen’ instead of a projection screen or monitor,” says Heni Ben Amor, research scientist in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing. “The robot’s intention is projected onto something in the 3D world, and its intended action continues to follow the object wherever that moves as long as necessary.”

The discovery, born from two algorithms and a spare car door, is ideal for manufacturing scenarios in which both humans and robots assemble together. Instead of controlling the robot with a tablet or from a distant computer monitor, the human worker can safely stand at the robot’s side to inspect precision, quickly make adjustments to its work, or move out of the way as the robot and human take turns assembling an object. Knowing exactly where and what task a robot will do next can help workers avoid injury.

“The goal of this research was to get information out of the virtual space inside the computer and into the real physical space that we inhabit,” Ben Amor adds. “As a result of that, we can increase safety and lead to an intuitive interaction between humans and robots.”

The discovery was developed over a four-month period by Ben Amor and Rasmus Andersen, a visiting Ph.D. student from Aalborg University in Denmark. The team realized that, by combining existing research available at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics & Intelligent Machines (IRIM) with new algorithms, plus personal experience with auto manufacturers, they could make “intention projection” possible.

They first perfected algorithms that would allow a robot to detect and track 3D objects, beginning with previous research from Georgia Tech and Aalborg University that was further developed. They next developed a second set of entirely new algorithms that can display information onto a 3D object in a geometrically correct way. Tying these two pieces together allows a robot to perceive an object, then identify where on that object to project information and act, then continuously project that information as the object moves, rotates or adapts. Andersen led the coding.

IRIM has contributed previous research to BMW, Daimler AG, and Peugeot. The recent discovery was inspired by what Ben Amor had observed during earlier work with Peugeot in Paris and from Andersen's previous work on interaction with mobile robots. The group next plans to formally publish their research.

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Like other professionals, architects have used computer-aided design (CAD) software in their work for decades. Typically, the resulting digital files are converted to hard-copy plans, which are then used to support traditional construction practices.

Researchers in the College of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology are now automating some of the processes by which computer-based designs are turned into real world entities. They're developing techniques that fabricate building elements directly from digital designs, allowing custom concrete components to be manufactured rapidly and at low cost.

"We're developing the research and the protocols to manufacture high-end customized architectural products economically, safely and with environmental responsibility," said Tristan Al-Haddad, an assistant professor in the College of Architecture who is a leader in this effort. "We think this work offers opportunities for architectural creativity at a new level and with tremendously increased efficiency."

In one recent project, Al-Haddad and a College of Architecture team collaborated with Lafarge North America to fabricate an award-winning building-element concept called a "Liquid Wall." The Georgia Tech team employed digital techniques to help construct a prototype wall, using ultra high-performance concrete; the result was displayed by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANY) in the "Innovate:Integrate" exhibition.

In another Lafarge-sponsored project, Al-Haddad and a College of Architecture team are developing a complete free-standing structure using ultra high-performance concrete elements fabricated directly from digital designs.

The Liquid Wall, originated by Peter Arbour of Paris-based RFR Consulting Engineers, won the 2010 Open Call for Innovative Curtain-Wall Design competition conducted by the AIA. The concept advanced a novel approach to curtain walls, which are building coverings that keep out weather but are non-structural and lightweight.

RFR's plans called for the Liquid Wall to be constructed of stainless steel and Ductal®, a light and strong ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) that is produced by Lafarge. Moreover, the new building enclosure was conceived as an entire system, including integrated louver systems, solar shading, integrated passive solar collectors and other advanced features.

Georgia Tech became involved in the Liquid Wall project when RFR decided to built a full-scale prototype of the complex concept. RFR asked Al-Haddad to help turn Arbour's original parametric sketches into a manufacturable design.

Supported by the College of Architecture's Digital Building and Digital Fabrication laboratories, the researchers refined the geometry of the original sketches for manufacturability and developed the techniques required for fabricating a full-size curtain wall.

Then, working from their digital models and using a five-axis CNC router – a device capable of machining material directly from a digital design – the Georgia Tech team milled a full-scale model of the wall. The model was made from a lightweight polymer material, expanded polystyrene (EPS) closed-cell foam, which was then given a polyurea coating.

The digitally milled foam model created an exact replica – a positive -- of the final wall. The lightweight positive could then be used to produce a negative capable of forming the actual prototype. In this case, the collaborators used the positive to produce a rubber mold – the negative – from which the final wall was cast.

The foam positive was shipped to Coreslab Structures Inc., a large corporation that specializes in industrial-scale casting. The Georgia Tech team then worked with Coreslab to identify the best techniques for creating the rubber mold and for pouring in Ductal to form the concrete wall.

"It was a very collaborative process – the four major players were Peter Arbour and RFR, Georgia Tech, Coreslab and Lafarge," Al-Haddad said. "And we had all of three weeks to finish the work before the exhibition deadline – so it was pretty intense."

Other College of Architecture people involved in the collaboration included graduate student Andres Cavieres, associate professor Russell Gentry and professor Charles Eastman, director of the Digital Building Laboratory. The resulting full-size Liquid Wall prototype was installed at the Center for Architecture in New York City as part of the AIANY's "Innovate: Integrate" exhibition, and was on view for several months in 2010 and 2011.

The Liquid Wall project was challenging, said Eastman, who holds joint appointments in the College of Architecture and the College of Computing. The process involved not only producing rubber negatives using wall-form designs created with CAD and parametric-modeling software, but also required identifying the right production procedures and finding effective ways of installing a completed full-size wall on a building.

"When you're creating a completely new process like the Liquid Wall, you're faced with developing a whole new manufacturing process for this kind of material," Eastman said.

A future project, expected to be about 20 by 20 feet square and 15 feet high, will be built using Ductal UHPC, principally or entirely. A central technical challenge will involve molding the many custom elements so that all edges fit together and form a structure that is stable, practical and esthetically pleasing.

"We understand the structural side of a project like this quite well -- the difficulty comes in the actual manufacturing of the elements," Al-Haddad said. "We want to advance the use of digital parametric models with custom molding systems, and create a free-form manufacturing system that can produce many variations quickly and accurately."

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OrthoCare Labs was preparing to move into a new manufacturing facility when it contacted Derek Woodham, a Georgia Tech regional manager who serves west Georgia companies. The collaboration that resulted helped the company expand its sales by more than $1 million per year, add seven jobs, save nearly a quarter million dollars -- and make a big investment in the LaGrange, Ga. community.

The seven-year-old company, which makes custom orthotics -- shoe inserts -- for athletes, diabetics and others, is now poised for additional growth.

"We would not have been able to grow at the rate we have grown if we were still making our product the way we did before Derek helped us," said Dr. Ric Hollstrom, the company's owner. "Derek helped us change the complete flow of our process to make it smoother."

Orthotics are by their nature custom products. Physicians make molds or take three-dimensional measurements of patients' feet, then send the casts or data to OrthoCare. The company's first production step is to carve a wooden replica of each patient's feet using a precision router. From a variety of orthotic-grade polymer sheets, the devices are then vacuum-formed around the replica feet, finished and packaged for shipping.

Prior to the move, Dr. Hollstrom's five staff members produced the orthotics in a departmental-type flow, in which one person was responsible for each aspect of the production, and would pass the products on to the next department in batches. This batch process created the potential for quality issues, and sometimes order confusion, because hundreds of individual products had to be kept separate.

"One of the issues was consistency of our product," said Dr. Hollstrom. "Maintaining consistency when each product was custom-made was difficult. It was also difficult to judge if the required consistency was there every time."

Woodham, who is part of Georgia Tech's Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), visited the company's old facility to learn the production process and talk with the staff. He listened to Dr. Hollstrom's concerns and heard his interest in adopting lean processes, which systematically reduce wasted time and resources. And Woodham understood the company's potential for growth.

What he recommended was a complete change in the organization of the manufacturing process. Instead of producing the orthotics departmentally and in batches, Woodham recommended creating flow cells in which a small team works together to complete products in one continuous operation.

Because a pair of orthotics could be made by the same group of workers in a continuous process, quality issues could be identified and addressed immediately. Having fewer products in process reduced the potential for mix-ups. In the new system, most orders were completed and shipped in a single day, besting the old process, which could take a week or more.

"The flow cell creates a better communications path from the beginning to the end," explained Woodham. "It's easier to keep up with custom orders because you don't have a large number of products waiting to be completed."

For a fast-growing company, switching to manufacturing cells also had an important benefit: production could be ramped up simply by adding cells following the plan Woodham designed.

"The company felt an urgency to get this right before they moved into their new facility," he explained. "Our work was a matter of understanding their processing steps and developing what would be the best layout for the equipment and the best way for the staff to work together."

Dr. Hollstrom said the flow cells allowed the company to expand production from approximately 80 sets of orthotics per day to 250 -- a more than 200 percent increase. The improved product quality reduced the number of products returned by the doctors ordering them, and faster turnaround time increased customer satisfaction.

The improvements also caught the attention of a company that sells footwear for people who have diabetes. That customer has already sent some business to the company, and is discussing the possibility of expanding its orders. If that happens, OrthoCare's sales could again grow dramatically, putting as many as 25 more people to work.

Dr. Hollstrom believes that growth can be accommodated without changing the processes Woodham established. He'll just add more workers and cells.

Not surprisingly, he is pleased with the work done by Georgia Tech and Derek Woodham.

"We added more than a million dollars worth of business to the company as a result of Derek's work," Dr. Hollstrom said. "Derek always told me what I needed to know, even though I didn't always want to hear it. For instance, I thought batching was better than the cell process, but he timed it and convinced me otherwise. What we are doing right now works very well."

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) is a program of Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute and is a member of the national MEP network supported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The GaMEP, with offices in nine regions across the state, has been serving Georgia manufacturers since 1960. With a broad range of industrial expertise, the GaMEP helps manufacturing companies across Georgia grow and stay competitive. It offers a solution-based approach through technical assistance, coaching, education, and connections to Georgia Tech, industry and state resources designed to increase top line growth and reduce bottom line cost.

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The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide manufacturing education programs to high school students.  The base development contract includes about $1 million for the first year, with the potential of $10 million over four years to expand the projects.

Georgia Tech will provide prize-based educational challenges for high school students, encouraging them to use the latest technology to design and build items such as wind-turbine blades, mobile air and ground robots and electric car bodies–hopefully inspiring the next generation of manufacturers.

The project is part of DARPA’s Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach (MENTOR) program.  MENTOR is aimed at bolstering the U.S. manufacturing industry by sparking teens’ interest in engineering, design manufacturing, math and science-related university programs.  Georgia Tech is one of several organizations awarded a contract from DARPA to help with the initiative.

“We want to change the mindset out there about manufacturing,” said David Rosen, Georgia Tech professor of mechanical engineering and co-principal investigator on the contract.  “We’re trying to use the latest technologies to attract a new generation into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas and the manufacturing career field.”

Georgia Tech’s program will focus on introducing students to design and manufacturing processes by using 3-D printers and additive manufacturing.  Social media will also play a role.  Students will be able to connect via social networking sites and form teams that will compete to showcase their work.

For the first two years of the project, Georgia Tech will work to get ten high schools in Georgia involved in the program.  The goal is to expand the program to 100 high schools across the country by year three and 1,000 high schools globally within four years.

Georgia Tech will be working with key partners to make the program a reality.

Dassault Systemes, a global company specializing in 3D and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, is providing the Georgia Tech project team with its PLM V6 academic software and its expertise in designing educational projects It is also providing user-friendly tools that will allow thousands of students across multiple sites to collaborate in a crowdsourcing fashion in design and manufacturing.

Georgia Tech is also partnering with two leading U.S. rapid prototyping providers, 3D Systems and Stratasys, which will help equip the high school teams with the latest manufacturing tools, including 3-D printers.

The program will add onto the Engineering Design Summer Camp that has been conducted for the past four years in Georgia Tech’s Integrated Product Lifecycle Engineering (IPLE) Laboratory in the School of Aerospace Engineering.

Expanding the program to hundreds of high schools could help create a resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S., researchers said.

“What we’re trying to do is make manufacturing an attractive career path,” said Daniel Schrage, professor and director of the IPLE Laboratory and co-principal investigator on the contract.  “A lot of students in college don’t look at manufacturing as the best choice of jobs; they would rather go into design or analysis.  You can have the most beautiful design, but if you cannot build it and you can’t operate it, it’s not successful. So we’re trying to change the culture from that perspective.”

Written by Liz Klipp

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Georgia Tech Savannah was the site of the December and January Engineering Explorer Post meetings, with 11th and 12th graders from both the Thomas & Hutton Explorer Post and the Hussey Gay Bell and DeYoung Explorer Post participating in these workshops. On Wednesday, December 8, 2010, the Engineering Explorer Post students spent the morning conducting a Hydraulics experiment under the guidance and direction of Kevin Haas, Ph.D., civil and environmental engineer. Using an open channel flume, the students calculated weir flow rates using a manometer. This activity gave students the opportunity to participate in the type of hands-on lessons experienced by engineering students at Georgia Tech Savannah.

Then on Thursday, January 27, 2011 the Engineering Explorers attended a Rapid Prototyping and 3-D Cad event at Georgia Tech Savannah, instructed by Georgia Tech Savannah graduate student, Thomas Stone. Under Mr. Stone’s tutelage, the students learned how to use Solid Works software to create a Computer Assisted Design Model. Each student created their own design that was then transferred to a 3-D Printer to create a solid prototype. Special thanks are extended to Julie Sonnenberg-Klein, Project Coordinator for Georgia Tech Savannah and to Kevin Haas, Ph.D., and Thomas Stone, for conducting these workshops with the Engineering Explorer Post students.

Exploring, a subsidiary of Boy Scouts of America, strives to be the foremost co-educational youth program for character and career development. For a gallery of local Learning for Life and Exploring photos, visit:

The Georgia Institute of Technology, also know as Georgia Tech, is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked the 10th best engineering and information technology university in the world by the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings and seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities, Georgia Tech has more than 20,000 students and is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Georgia Tech Savannah campus offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and electrical and computer engineering.

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