The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration, announced the release of its second 2016 Project Call, which requests proposals for four topics across three DMDII Technology Thrusts: Intelligent Machines (IM), Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise (AME), and Advanced Analysis (AA).

The title and goal of each Project Call Topic are listed below:



Low-Cost Robotics and Automation (IM)


This Project Call Topic seeks robotics and automation solutions that are affordable, reconfigurable, and adaptable, and that exhibit the precision, repeatability, and productivity of conventional automated solutions. They must also exhibit flexibility at a cost that makes them accessible to small and midsize businesses.

Real-Time Optimization of Factory Operations (AME)

The objective of this Project Call Topic is to improve factory decision-making by transforming raw data into meaningful and useful information for analysis and decision recommendations. Example analytical tools include online analytical processing, data mining, complex event processing, text mining, predictive and prescriptive analytics, and active performance management.

Seamless Work Flows from Design to Fabrication (AA)

The goal of this Project Call Topic is to develop software solutions that significantly reduce the manual input and expertise required to rapidly translate designs into fabricated parts during manufacturing, and thus to fully utilize the capabilities of available machine tools.

Human Systems Integration (AA)

This Project Call Topic aims to develop digital and physical technologies to improve human systems integration through data collection and analysis to reduce the costs and inefficiencies that stem from industrial workers performing tasks in environments that do not adequately take into account human size variation or capabilities.



To convey additional information to interested stakeholders, DMDII will host a Project Call Workshop at the UI LABS Innovation Center on September 8, 2016. Workshop attendees will hear from the DMDII leadership team about the institute’s mission, vision, and goals, as well as how to do business with DMDII. Attendees also will have the opportunity to network throughout the course of the workshop to enable teaming for responses to the Project Call Topics.

To facilitate the formation of project teams, DMDII encourages manufacturing businesses, manufacturing services providers, technology companies (hardware and software), and academic institutions to register their capabilities and interests through an online survey in advance.

For more information, visit: dmdii.uilabs.org/events/september-project-call-workshop

Published in DMDII

Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT), announced its project proposal titled “A Non-Empirical Predictive Model for Additively Manufactured Lattice Structures,” has been accepted as part of a multi-million dollar grant from the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, America Makes. PADT’s proposal was one of only seven selected, and one of only two where the leading organization was a small business.

To complete the deliverables, Arizona State University (ASU), Honeywell Aerospace and LAI International are assisting PADT in technical research with contributions from Prof. Howard Kuhn, a Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a leading educator in Additive Manufacturing, for workforce and educational outreach.

“While there are several efforts ongoing in developing design and optimization software for lattice structures in additive manufacturing, there has been little progress in developing a robust, validated material model that accurately describes how these structures behave,” said Dhruv Bhate, PhD, senior technologist, PADT and author and principal investigator of the proposal. “We are honored to be chosen to research this important issue and provide the tools to enable entrepreneurs, manufacturers and makers to integrate lattice structures in their designs.”

One of the most definitive benefits of additive manufacturing is the ability to reduce weight while maintaining mechanical performance. A way to achieve this is by adding lattice structures to parts before manufacturing. The advantages are crucial and can result in increased design flexibility, lower material costs and significant reductions in production time for industries such as aerospace and automotive.

Another aspect of PADT’s winning proposal is the development of a first-of-a-kind online, collaborative living textbook on Additive Manufacturing that seeks to provide comprehensive, up-to-date and structured information in a field where over 50 papers are published worldwide every day. In addition, the team will develop a training class that addresses manufacturing, testing, theory and simulation as well as how they are combined together to deliver robust predictions of lattice behavior.

“We have identified Additive Manufacturing as a key lever of innovation in our company and recognize lattice structures as an important design capability to reduce mass, improve performance and reduce costs,” said Suraj Rawal, Technical Fellow, Advanced Technology Center at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company – a leader in implementing Additive Manufacturing. “We also recognize the significance of this work in lattice behavior modeling and prediction as an important contribution to help implement the design, manufacturing, and performance validation of structures in our innovative designs.”

The award of this grant is another example of the leadership role that Arizona is playing in advancing the practical application of Additive Manufacturing, better known as 3D Printing. PADT’s leadership role in the Arizona Technology Council’s Arizona Additive Manufacturing Committee, support of basic research in the area at ASU, and involvement with educating the next generation of users underscores PADT’s contribution to this effort and furthers the company’s commitment to “Make Innovation Work.”

Published in PADT

In a move that could help reinvigorate the metal production industry in Australia, CSIRO and Enirgi Group have joined forces to develop and commercialize an affordable and low-emission technology for producing magnesium metal.

The CSIRO developed technology, known as MagSonic, produces magnesium using up to 80 percent less energy and up to 60 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions thanks to a supersonic nozzle.

Magnesium is the lightest of all metals and is in rising demand from car manufacturers who are turning to the metal as a solution for making lightweight, low-emission vehicles.

CSIRO and Enirgi Group's Innovation Division will work together to further develop and validate the MagSonic technology.

Once the technology is proven ready for commercialization, Enirgi Group has the option to take up an exclusive global license that would see the company initially build a commercial-scale magnesium production facility in Australia.

Dr Mark Cooksey, who leads CSIRO's sustainable process engineering group, said commercialization of MagSonic would help take advantage of Australia's abundant reserves of magnesite ore that remain largely untapped.

"The growth of magnesium use has been limited because it's been too expensive and labor intensive to produce the metal from ore using traditional processes," Dr Cooksey said.

"Our MagSonic technology offers an economically-viable solution to overcome these issues and make clean magnesium more available and affordable to manufacturers.

"We're delighted to be working with Enirgi Group as our technology and commercial partners, with their experience in developing new processes to disrupt and change industry dynamics."

MagSonic uses carbothermal reduction and a supersonic nozzle to efficiently produce high quality magnesium.

It involves heating magnesia with carbon to extreme temperatures to produce magnesium vapour and carbon monoxide.

The vapour and carbon monoxide are passed through a supersonic nozzle – similar to a rocket engine – at four times the speed of sound to cool the gases in milliseconds, condensing and solidifying the magnesium vapour to magnesium metal.

"We are pleased to be working with CSIRO on this exciting opportunity to bring reliable supply of magnesium metal to the global market in an environmentally sustainable way," Enirgi Group's Vice President of Corporate Development, Anthony Deal said.

"We are confident that this process is capable of commercial production.

"The flow-through benefits to emerging industries like electric vehicle manufacturing are enormous, not to mention a substantial reduction in carbon emissions when compared to current magnesium production processes," he said.

In recent years, CSIRO has been developing new sustainable technologies to help the Australian metal production industry compete in an increasingly environmentally-conscious and globalized world.

MagSonic compliments a suite of CSIRO developed magnesium technologies, including T-mag, twin roll strip casting and high pressure die casting.

Published in CSIRO

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration, announced that it has issued seven national applied research, development, and demonstration awards. These projects address several digital manufacturing and design topics, including augmented reality for use on manufacturing shop floors and on wearable and mobile devices.

“We are excited to continue to advance applied R&D within our core technology focus areas,” said Dr. Dean Bartles, Chief Manufacturing Officer of UI LABS and Executive Director of DMDII. “With each project call, we bring additional researchers, global industry leaders, and small companies into our consortium and move closer to making technologies related to ‘smart manufacturing’ and ‘brilliant factory’ applicable to manufacturers across the country.”

The projects involving augmented reality (AR), Manufacturing Work Instructions on Wearable and Mobile Devices with Augmented Reality, led by the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Authoring Augmented Reality Work Instructions by Expert Demonstration, led by Iowa State University, reflect the tremendous potential that AR holds as related technologies transition from consumer applications to the industrial sector.

“Our project will enable the creation of instructions for an augmented reality-based training system that mimic the actual part manipulations of an expert,” said Eliot Winer, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University. “This project builds upon successful research from our project team, which we anticipate turning into real-world applications for manufacturers through the perspective provided by our industry partners.”

Embedding visual instructions in an individual’s environment through projection, wearable elements, or handheld devices can reduce training time and errors at multiple stages of the manufacturing process. AR also allows companies to redeploy experts to other tasks rather than time-consuming training sessions.

“A critical element to driving manufacturing competitiveness is delivering work instructions to our skilled workforce,” said Craig Sutton, Manager of Advanced Manufacturing at Deere & Company. “Given the amount of complexity that this workforce manages, written instructions remain a challenging medium. A tool like augmented reality will enable us to improve our productivity and quality measures in our operations.”

DMDII’s projects bring together teams with expertise in a variety of manufacturing disciplines and include major multinational corporations, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), government entities, and university researchers. Each project is managed by a lead organization that coordinates work among other organizations on the team. For example, Iowa State University is spearheading a project that includes Purdue University, John Deere, Boeing, Daqri, and Design Mill. Facilitating connections among its diverse consortium to create unique solutions is an important aspect of the UI LABS process.

DMDII’s seven new contract awards are as follows:

Manufacturing Work Instructions on Wearable and Mobile Devices with Augmented Reality – 15-04-01
Lead Organization: Rochester Institute of Technology
Other Organizations on the Team: Harbec, Optimax, OptiPro

This project aims to move shop floor instructions off of paper and into interactive, easy-to-use wearable technology. Using augmented reality technology, users will be able to see how to complete a task in real time, with virtual guides showing them what—and what not—to do. At the same time, the system will collect valuable real-time shop floor data that is not typically captured and harness it to improve future manufacturing processes. The system will be based on open standards to achieve another key goal of the project: the creation of technology that is cost-effective for SMEs.

Authoring Augmented Reality Work Instructions by Expert Demonstration – 15-04-03
Lead Organization: Iowa State University
Other Organizations on the Team: Boeing, Daqri, Design Mill, John Deere, Purdue University

This proposal seeks to create work instructions for augmented reality systems by developing the Augmented Reality Expert Demonstration Authoring (AREDA) product. The end product will be a simple and intuitive method to quickly create augmented reality work instructions using 3D cameras with advanced image processing and computer vision algorithms. The cameras will track experts as they manipulate parts to complete a project, capturing minute details and translating them into virtual instructions. AREDA stands to benefit companies like project team partners John Deere and Boeing by making assembly line training more cost-effective through augmented reality. 

FactBoard: Real-Time Data-Driven Visual Decision Support System for the Factory Floor – 15-02-08
Lead: Iowa State University
Other Organizations on the Team: Boeing, Factory Right, John Deere, ProPlanner

This project will develop FactBoard, a shop floor decision support system that will convert thousands of data inputs from logistics and production systems into a collection of visual dashboards—all in real-time. The dashboards will consist of mobile support displays that can be accessed by a variety of users, from plant managers to factory floor foremen. FactBoard will enable manufacturers to make quick adjustments to respond to resource changes, saving them time and money. Many companies are often not in a position to make major upfront investments in shop floor data collection, so FactBoard would ultimately enable manufacturers to use existing data effectively while increasing the quality of information and decision-making as additional data sources become available in the future.

Elastic Cloud-Based Make: Supply Chain Configuration Use Case – 14-09-02
Lead Organization: GE Global Research
Other Organizations on the Team: Rochester Institute of Technology

The initial Elastic Cloud-Based Make (ECBM) project will transition multiple manufacturing tools developed under the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program to DMDII. It will create a use case report that will be available on the open source manufacturing resource the Digital Manufacturing Commons (DMC) and will function like a road map for SMEs looking to incorporate AVM tools across their supply chains. This project extends the scope of the original project to further demonstrate paths to commercialization for additional AVM tools throughout the supply chain, from SME suppliers through large manufacturers. These commercialization pathways will be demonstrated through supply chain configuration for new products and for remanufactured products.

SPEC-OPS: Standards-based Platform for Enterprise Communication enabling Optimal Production and Self-awareness – 15-03-02
Lead: Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
Other Organizations on the Team: ITAMCO, MTConnect Institute, System Insights

SPEC-OPS aims to provide a first-of-its-kind platform to tightly integrate machine tools and the multiple systems involved in the total manufacturing process, such as manufacturing execution systems, enterprise resource planning systems, dynamic planning and scheduling and process analytics. The capability to integrate multiple systems to transfer data back and forth does not exist today, and SPEC-OPS is the first major effort to address the challenge. The final platform will result in savings in planning, scheduling, execution, and maintenance time for manufacturers.

Automated Manufacturability Analysis Software “ANA” – 14-01-07
Lead Organization: Iowa State University
Other Organizations on the Team: American Foundry Society, John Deere, The Lucrum Group, MFG.com, North American Die Casting Association, Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, Steel Founders’ Society of America, Tech Soft 3D, University of Alabama at Birmingham

This project will create a manufacturability analysis package that can work on any platform to provide real-time feedback on critical manufacturing issues. The ANA project builds upon work from the AVM project to develop commercially viable software that will provide feedback to designers at the conceptual design phase. The resulting analysis software will enable conceptual designers to receive immediate feedback on their designs early in the manufacturing process, cutting down the often lengthy conceptual design phase of components. The outcomes of this project will enable significant reductions in manufacturing costs, product launch costs, and time to market.

Integrated Manufacturing Variation Management – 14-07-02
Lead: Caterpillar Inc.
Other Organizations on the Team: Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Incoming stock from casting and forging suppliers can vary to the point that standard machine tools cannot adequately respond to the existing material condition in the as-programmed state. The goal of the project is to generate a system by which a manufacturer, in an automated fashion, can compensate for machine tool workspace (machine tool) errors induced due to part, fixture, tooling, or machine tool errors. This should allow for large reductions in setup times for new parts, new fixtures, or parts that see a large variation in the rough condition as delivered to the machining operation while minimizing human interaction in the machining setup process. The innovation over the present state of technology will yield significant improvement in process reliability and efficiency in the entire value stream.

For more information, visit: www.dmdii.org/projects

Published in DMDII

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration, announced the release of its first 2016 Project Call addressing two of the three DMDII Technology Thrusts: Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise (AME) and Intelligent Machines (IM).

The title and goal of each Project Call Topic are listed below:

Analytical Solutions for Lifecycle Feedback (AME)
The goal of this Project Call Topic is to reduce total lifecycle costs of complex systems by collecting data from different parts of the product lifecycle, allowing data to flow across the product lifecycle and to use this information to improve decision-making.

Industrial Internet of Things Retrofit Kit for Legacy Manufacturing (IM)
This Project Call Topic aims to develop an affordable means to retrofit legacy production systems with a wide array of sensors, and to provide the capability to securely and rapidly collect, store, and transmit the data, enabling participation in the digital enterprise.

To convey additional information to interested stakeholders, DMDII will host a Project Call Workshop at the UI LABS Innovation Center on March 29, 2016. Workshop attendees will hear from the DMDII leadership team about its mission, vision, and goals, as well as how to do business with the Institute. Attendees also will have the opportunity to network throughout the course of the workshop to enable teaming for responses to the Project Call Topics. To facilitate the formation of project teams, DMDII encourages manufacturing businesses, manufacturing services providers, technology companies (hardware and software), and academic institutions to register their capabilities and interests on an online survey in advance.

DMDII plans to issue additional Project Calls over the next several months, covering the Technology Thrusts mentioned above as well as Advanced Analysis (AA). Upcoming project topics will include Low-Cost Robotics and Automation (IM), Real-Time Optimization of Factory Operations (AME), Seamless Work Flows from Design to Fabrication (AA), and Human Systems Integration (AA). Specific dates for these releases will be announced separately.

For more information, visit: dmdii.uilabs.org/events/spring-workshop

Published in DMDII

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration, announced that it has issued six national contract research awards, including funding to test and aid compliance with the nation’s cybersecurity standards for digital manufacturing. The projects span several digital manufacturing disciplines, but each reflects the core mission of DMDII: propelling the field of American digital manufacturing and design forward.

“These project awards sponsor research that will change the way that manufacturers in all segments of the supply chain are able to engage in business,” said Dr. Greg Harris, DMDII’s program manager through the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center. “The investment in cybersecurity research is particularly exciting, as the U.S. manufacturing sector lacks the compliance pathway and workforce development plan to comply with current standards. This award is part of DMDII’s commitment to moving American manufacturing beyond the 21st century.”

The projects bring together teams with expertise in a variety of manufacturing disciplines and include major multinational corporations, small enterprises, government entities and university researchers. Each project is managed by a lead organization that coordinates work among other organizations on the team. For example, Rolls-Royce Corporation is spearheading a project that includes Microsoft and 3D Systems, top tier engineering school Georgia Tech, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and leading research institutes Pennsylvania State University Advanced Research Laboratory and Southwest Research Institute. Facilitating connections among diverse project teams is a key aspect of the UI LABS approach.

“This cohort of awardees shows what DMDII and UI LABS are all about: smart cross-sector collaboration that is going to enhance competitiveness for the entire industry,” said Dr. Dean Bartles, Chief Manufacturing Officer of UI LABS and Executive Director of DMDII. “Through these projects, we are lowering cost and access barriers to implementing digital manufacturing practices for small manufacturers across the country.”

Assessing, Remediating, and Enhancing DFARS Cybersecurity Compliance in Factory Infrastructure is the first DMDII project focused specifically on cybersecurity. The project seeks to test and validate a uniform cybersecurity standard for manufacturing, with the goal of improving the cybersecurity of the supply chain across the manufacturing industry. It reflects feedback from DMDII’s large manufacturing partners who have expressed the need for improved supply chain management security.

The project will review Department of Defense (DoD) cybersecurity standards for contractors and conduct a series of case studies to assess the costs and capabilities manufacturers need to meet them. Ultimately, more manufacturers will be able to become DoD cybersecurity compliant, adding more potential contractors into the DoD and manufacturing pipeline. While this merely scratches the surface in addressing the cybersecurity needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the manufacturing industry as a whole, it is an important initial step in enhancing the cybersecurity of the U.S. supply chain.

“Companies of all sizes, as well as federal and state governments, must be concerned about the security of the other organizations that make up their supply chain, as their security could be compromised by an insecure partner. This project will help understand cybersecurity issues in a critical supply chain segment – manufacturing – and ultimately propose an enhanced cybersecurity standard that is tailored to the industry,” said Jim Henderson, Vice President of Cyber, Engineering, and Technology at Imprimis, Inc., the lead organization on DMDII’s first cybersecurity project.

The contract awards continue DMDII’s investment in digital manufacturing, building on 2015 contracts valued at over $7 million. The research and tools generated from all projects will be available on the Digital Manufacturing Commons, DMDII’s open-source online platform that allows manufacturers to access data and tools that can improve efficiency and productivity across the entire manufacturing cycle.

“DMDII’s research will ultimately make America’s manufacturing industry more competitive and secure, while strengthening our workforce and the economy in the process,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “Chicago’s flagship digital manufacturing institute has brought together teams with diverse brainpower and expertise to address the critical need to boost cybersecurity capabilities. I was an early advocate of DMDII, have fought for a steady stream of federal funding in the face of potential cuts, and am proud to support its new focus on cybersecurity research.”

DMDII’s six contract awards are as follows:

Integration of AVM iFAB Tools for Industrial Use
Lead Organization: Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory
Other Organizations on this Team: aPriori, Oshkosh Corporation, Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC)

Part of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program, this project will develop tools and standards for advanced adaptive manufacturing of complex vehicles.

This project seeks to create “design assist tools”– tools that help manage data from design through manufacture and potentially service life –that will increase speed and efficiency and cut down costs. The tools will allow designers to analyze manufacturability and assemblability by creating a simulation that enables them to work on a virtual prototype, rather than a costly real-world one. Ultimately, the tools will be added to the Digital Manufacturing Commons, DMDII’s open-source online platform.


Elastic Cloud-Based Make
Lead Organization: GE Global Research
Other Organizations on this Team: Iowa State University, Northwestern University, Oregon State University, Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rolls-Royce Corporation

Many SMEs lag behind larger manufacturers in adopting new technologies. A key challenge for these businesses is the adoption of information technology—particularly advanced modeling, simulation, and analysis (MS&A) tools, which is increasingly important to manufacturing competitiveness but can be cost-prohibitive for SMEs.

Through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) Tool Integration project, the GE Global Research-led team will directly address these technical challenges by enabling SMEs to access the AVM MS&A tools via the Digital Manufacturing Commons.


Supply Chain MBE/TDP Improvement
Lead Organization: Rolls-Royce Corporation
Other Organizations on this Team: 3rd Dimension, Anark Corporation, ITI-Global (International TechneGroup Incorporated), Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Purdue University

This project seeks to push Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) technologies forward by using MBE technology to streamline the design stage of the manufacturing process. This involves the use of intelligent 3D models to eliminate the need to translate to different formats, including 2D drawings, when transferring information between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other companies within the supply chain.

Using MBE ties data related to tolerance, life of product, and other product specs to the 3D model during the design phase and allows it to be used for all stages of the process, eliminating issues of unclear or inaccurate drawings. The combination of the 3D model and accompanying information is referred to as the technical data package (TDP).

As a framework and best practices for MBE/TDP are standardized and disseminated more widely, they will become more useful and accessible to SMEs. As a greater percentage of the supply chain embraces MBE, the number of potential suppliers to the DoD and other major manufacturers will increase.


O3 – Operate, Orchestrate, and Originate
Lead Organization: STEP Tools, Inc.
Other Organizations on this Team: ITI-Global (International TechneGroup Incorporated), Mitutoyo America, System Insights

The O3 project will develop a web environment that will enable users to orchestrate machining and measurement processes from tablets and smart phones. Time and money are wasted when a machining program creates a part that does not conform to the design requirements of the customer. O3 will allow users to check machining programs for conformance from remote locations. When conformance is not met, the service will allow the process to be adjusted using apps.

The servers that will be used to host O3 tools will be located at DMDII, and the tools will be available to all manufacturers through the Digital Manufacturing Commons. 


Advanced Variance Analysis & Make
Lead Organization: Rolls-Royce Corporation
Other Organizations on this Team: 3D Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology, Microsoft, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Penn State University Applied Research Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI)

The Advanced Variance Analysis & Make project uses high-performance computing to demonstrate how data coming off of a machine relates to the part made by that machine. It will indicate whether an anomaly in the data is, in fact, related to an anomaly in performance and/or adherence to a design specification for the part.

The analyses will form the basis of a database of production anomalies available through the Digital Manufacturing Commons. Manufacturers will use the resulting data in real time to correct an anomaly if it will affect a part’s performance, or to ignore the data anomaly if there is no evidence of impact on the part’s capabilities, saving time and money during the manufacturing process.


Assessing, Remediating and Enhancing DFARS Cybersecurity Compliance in Factory Infrastructure

Lead Organization: Imprimis, Inc. (i2)
Other Organizations on this Team: SPIRE Manufacturing Solutions, Western Cyber Exchange

This project seeks to create, test and implement a uniform cybersecurity standard for DMDII, with the goal of improving cybersecurity and supply chain security across the manufacturing industry. It reflects feedback from DMDII’s large manufacturing partners who have expressed the need for improved supply chain management.

The project will review DoD cybersecurity standards for contractors, assess the costs, capabilities, and training manufacturers need to meet them, then develop a case study to aid manufacturers in meeting them. Ultimately, more manufacturers will be able to become DoD cybersecurity compliant, adding more potential contractors into the DoD and manufacturing pipeline.

Published in DMDII

Concept Laser presented a new machine and plant architecture which promises a new level of Additive Manufacturing in terms of quality, flexibility and increase in performance. The modular integration of machine technology into the manufacturing environment is achieved with a new approach in the design of process components. Ultimately, this makes faster and more economic industrial production solutions available. Concept Laser has announced a market launch by as early as the end of 2016.

The previous solutions for machine and plant technology in the market all relied on ideas such as “more laser sources,” “more laser power,” “faster build rates” or “expansion of the build envelope sizes.” The machine technology represented a “standalone” solution without any consistent integration into the manufacturing environment. Build job preparation and build job process proceeded sequentially. Concept Laser is now attempting, with a new machine architecture, to expand the usually quantitative sections with new, qualitative aspects. “In essence,” says Dr. Florian Bechmann, Head of R&D at Concept Laser, “it is about splitting up build job preparation/build job follow-up processing and Additive Manufacturing in any number of combinable modules. With comparatively large build envelopes, build jobs can be carried out with a time delay. The intention is that this should drastically reduce the “downtimes” of previous stand-alone machines. There is plenty of potential here for improving the level of added value in the production chain. In contrast to purely quantitative approaches of previous machine concepts, we see here a fundamentally new approach for advancing industrial series production one step further.”

At present, regional printing centers are being created as service providers all around the globe. This development is characterized by the transition from “prototyping” to a desire for flexible series production at an industrial level. The AM users experience the pressure of traditional manufacturing: demand for space, expansion of the machinery, increasing operating tasks and in particular times. In the new concept from Concept Laser, interesting solutions are offered in this regard: Production is “decoupled in machine terms” from the preparation processes. The time window for AM production is increased to a “24/7 level,” meaning that there is higher availability of all components. An automated flow of materials palpably reduces the workload for the operators. Interfaces integrate the laser melting machine into traditional CNC machine technology, as is important for hybrid parts, for example, but also into downstream processes (post-processing / finishing).

The new plant architecture is characterized essentially by decoupling of “pre-production,” “production” and “post-processing.” This includes among other things flexible machine loading and physical separation of the setting-up and disarming processes. The objective here was to coordinate the process components in a more targeted way with interfaces and increase the flexibility of the process design to create an integrated approach. This becomes possible thanks to a consistent modular structure of “handling stations” and “build and process units” which, in terms of combination and interlinking, promises considerably greater flexibility and availabilities. It will also be possible to handle the present diversity of materials better, and ultimately more economically, through a targeted combination of these modules. For example, in future the machine user will be able to use the modules to very precisely “customize” the production assignment in terms of the part geometry or material. All in all, the level of efficiency and availability of the production system will be markedly increased, along with a significant reduction in the amount of space required. Simulated production scenarios have in fact shown that this space can be reduced by up to 85% compared to the possibilities that exist at present. In addition, the laser power per m2 is increased seven-fold. Dr. Florian Bechmann says: “The build rates have increased enormously thanks to the multilaser technology. The build envelope sizes have also experienced considerable growth. We now want to use an integrated machine concept to highlight the possible ways that the approaches of “Industry 4.0” can change Additive Manufacturing as the manufacturing strategy of the future. There is plenty of potential here to increase industrial added value and enhance suitability for series production.”

The process station shown has a build envelope of 400 x 400 x >400 mm³, laser sources, process gas management and filter technology are integrated in the module, and the layer thicknesses are within the usual range. In addition, the machine solution has a variable focus diameter and will be available optionally with 1, 2 or 4 laser optics with a laser power ranging from 400-1,000 W. An available redundancy of the lasers will ensure that, if one laser fails, the remaining three lasers will still cover the entire build plate – the build job can still be completed. Dr. Florian Bechmann says: “More and more laser sources only increase the expected speeds to a limited extent. But ultimately they also increase the level of complexity and dependencies, which can result in vulnerability, and thus turn the desired positive effect into a negative.”

The new handling station has an integrated sieving station and powder management. There is now no longer any need for containers to be used for transportation between the machine and sieving station. Unpacking, preparations for the next build job and sieving therefore take place in a self-contained system without the operator coming into contact with the powder. But what also makes a modular handling station attractive is the specific configurations: A handling station can be linked to two process stations to create a “manufacturing cell.” The factory building kit also enables several handling stations to be joined together to create a material preparation facility and be physically separated from the process stations.

The new factory building kit boasts three types of modules: process module, dose module and “overflow” module, which are to be offered in different heights. What is remarkable is the direct link between these modules without the use of any pipes or tubes and their identification via RFID interfaces. Accordingly, the result is a reliable flow of materials with high material throughputs along with great flexibility when there is a need to supply different types of materials for the build process and handle them. “In the future,” says Dr. Florian Bechmann, “we think that AM factories will be largely automated. The transport of material or entire modules can be envisaged as being done by driverless transport systems. This could then be the next step in the development. Additive Manufacturing can be automated to the maximum extent.”

The new machine concept has a new type of 2-axis coating system which enables the return of the coater to be performed in parallel with exposure. This results in a considerable time saving during the coating process.
The coater blades, optionally made of rubber, steel or carbon, can be changed automatically during the build job. This results in several advantages according to Dr. Florian Bechmann: “An automated tool changing system, as is the case with CNC machine technology, promises a high level of flexibility, time advantages when setting up the machine, and reduces the level of manual intervention by the operator. We deliberately talk here about ‘robust production’.”

For more information, visit: www.conceptlaser.com

Published in Concept Laser

UL, a global safety science organization, announced partnerships with Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health to study the impact of 3D printing on indoor air quality. The research is designed to scientifically characterize chemical and particle emissions of 3D printing technologies and to evaluate their potential impact on human health.

Outcomes of the research include scientific characterization of the emissions and establishment of defined methodologies for analytical measurement, and assessment of human exposure risks. The research is expected to be completed in 2016.

Underwriters Laboratories Inc, a not-for-profit organization that is part of the UL family of companies, is investing in independent human health research to provide consumers, manufacturers and policymakers with a greater scientific understanding for identifying and reducing potential health hazards. This study is one of numerous Underwriters Laboratories Inc initiatives dedicated to evaluating the impact of indoor pollution sources on human health and enabling steps toward achieving safe living, working and learning environments.

The two-year research project is being conducted in two phases. The first phase, which is being led by Rodney Weber, Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech, is defining the appropriate analytical measurement and risk evaluation methodologies for characterizing and assessing particle and chemical emissions from 3D printing technologies. The second phase, conducted by The Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, will assess potential health hazards from exposure to the emissions.

“Our 3D printing research underscores the critical convergence of chemical, environmental and human health safety, expanding the safety paradigm beyond the exploration of traditional fire, shock and casualty criteria,” said Dr. Marilyn Black, vice president and senior technical advisor, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. “This study is part of UL Inc.’s commitment to share knowledge that helps make products safer to operate, safer for the environment and safer for societal health and well-being.”

Significant progress has been made by UL Inc and Georgia Tech thus far in developing the methodology to measure and characterize particle and gaseous emissions from 3D printers. The risk assessment studies with Emory University are expected to begin in 2016.

Published in UL

GPI Prototype & Manufacturing Services, Inc. is pleased to announce an engineering collaboration with 3D Systems, an international leader in industrial 3D printing, to expand and advance their next generation of metal additive manufacturing equipment.

“We are enthusiastic to couple 3D Systems’ expert knowledge in machine technology with our production experience in an effort to grow the use of additive manufacturing across all industries,” said Adam Galloway, President GPI.

GPI has added a ProX300 and two new ProX200 units from 3D Systems in its recently expanded production facility, positioning it well for this new research and development collaboration.  The joint effort with 3DSystems will enhance GPI’s leadership role in the advancement of metal additive manufacturing.  Engineers from both companies, including GPI’s in-house metallurgical engineer and metals application engineer, will be working together on process testing and machine testing with GPI providing real-time customer feedback.  Through this endeavor, GPI and 3DS are seeking to further develop the Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) build parameters to make it more widely adopted by all end users.

“Leveraging the significant experience and engineering expertise of both of our companies to move additive manufacturing to the next level is truly exciting,” says Adam Galloway, President of GPI.  “This project is going to be good for our customers and, even more important, a positive for the industry as a whole.”

For more information, visit: www.gpiprototype.com

Published in GPI Prototype

Applications are now being accepted for the international ABB Research Award in Honor of Hubertus von Gruenberg. A call for applications to be submitted by January 31, 2016 has been issued to postgraduates in the fields of power and automation at universities or research institutions. The award carries a US$ 300,000 personal research grant.

With the grant money, ABB intends to provide the recipient with an opportunity to continue conducting advanced research in the chosen field, culminating in innovative results being presented to the international scientific and business communities. The award will be presented in mid-2016 at a gala awards ceremony in Switzerland.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a large number of applications,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive officer of the ABB Group. “At ABB, we want to facilitate the ability of young scientists to pursue their research and innovate in the fields of power and automation and, in doing so, give them a chance to enhance the performance of technologies used in the power, industry, transportation, and infrastructure sectors to improve productivity and reduce environmental impact.”

To be considered for the award, applicants must submit a letter of recommendation from their doctoral advisor in addition to their particulars including academic department, topic of the dissertation, an executive summary in English, and a brief description of the planned research project that the personal grant will be used to complete.

Outstanding dissertations in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics, industrial software, artificial intelligence, robotics, process automation, or related disciplines which have been approved in the past three years — between 2013 and 2015 — can be submitted. Work in the fields mentioned above dealing with topics relevant to the utilities, industry, transportation, and infrastructure sectors will have good prospects for winning the award. ABB also values research that paves the way for pioneering industrial solutions through the creative use of software, electronics, or new materials.

A high-caliber international jury will select the best application. In addition to the fulfillment of all scientific and formal quality standards, the following criteria will inform the jury’s decision: potential for innovation, specific practical application, benefit to the environment and society, and a compelling presentation of the results.

ABB established the research award at the beginning of this year in honor of recent chairman of the Board of Directors Hubertus von Gruenberg. The grant will be awarded for the first time in 2016 and once every three years thereafter. Physicist Dr. Hubertus von Gruenberg has inspired the research award named after him by embodying the values it represents — dedication to science and commerce, a passion for research, business acumen, and the firm belief that innovation forms the foundation upon which sustainable growth and successful enterprises are built.

For more information, visit: new.abb.com/hvg-award

Published in ABB

Boeing opened its new research and technology center in St. Louis. The facility will serve as the company's regional hub for collaborative technology development with academic institutions and research partners in systems technology.

Boeing leaders joined local dignitaries and employees for a ribbon cutting and tours of the research labs. With more than 180,000 square-feet devoted to the creation and development of technologies for use in current and future Boeing products, the Boeing Research & Technology-Missouri (BR&T-Missouri) research center has grown significantly since it was first announced in 2013.

"We're building a deeply talented workforce here that will make important contributions to future products," said Nancy Pendleton, leader of the BR&T-Missouri research center. "The new BR&T-Missouri research center allows access to and development of cutting-edge technologies across a broad spectrum of research areas, which will help launch the next hundred years of innovation."

New labs and capabilities in Missouri include the Non-Destructive Test Lab, the Human Systems Integration Center, a Polymer Synthesis Lab, and the soon-to-be-built Collaborative Autonomous Systems Lab. More than 700 engineers, technicians and staff at BR&T-Missouri will develop a variety of other technologies that include systems, digital aviation and support technology, rate-independent production and next generation materials.

"Missouri is a great place for us to be – the proximity to local talent and research partners gives us access to some of the best minds in the industry," said Pendleton. "Our research agreements with Missouri University of Science and Technology and St. Louis University are just one more way we are advancing technologies."

"Today marks another exciting chapter in Boeing's continued growth in St. Louis," Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said. "Already the headquarters of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, the company's St. Louis campus continues to grow and diversify, creating hundreds of high-tech jobs and strengthening our economy. This state-of-the-art research and technology center is a great testament to our enduring partnership with Boeing, the dedicated men and women who work there, and the strong bipartisan effort to position Missouri to compete for next-generation aerospace jobs."

BR&T is the company's advanced research and development organization, providing technologies that enable the development of future aerospace solutions while improving the cycle time, cost, quality and performance of existing Boeing products and services. BR&T-Missouri rounds out the company's 10 other research centers around the world in Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, India, Russia and the United States, including Alabama, California, South Carolina and Washington.

For more information, visit: www.boeing.com

Published in Boeing

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration established in 2014, announced today that it has issued its first five national contract research awards. The contracts are valued at more than $7 million, include 14 DMDII partners from across the United States, and will fund research aimed at advancing the field of digital manufacturing and design. Over the next three years, DMDII anticipates having a portfolio of sponsored research projects, spread out over dozens of project call topics and hundreds of institute members.

Five prime contractors from five states have received awards. Prime contractors include Green Dynamics Inc. in California, STEP Tools, Inc. in New York, Product Development & Analysis (PDA) LLC in Illinois, the Design Automation Lab of Arizona State University, and Oregon State University. Each prime contractor has assembled a team of subprime contractors, ranging from major U.S. manufacturers, small- and medium-sized businesses, software development firms, and academic institutions. Of the 14 contracted parties, three are large companies, four are small and medium manufacturers, five are universities and two are non-governmental organizations.

The five awards include the first of several contracts in DMDII’s strategic investment plan and technology roadmap. The industry-driven technology roadmap is aligned with the Department of Defense’s strategic manufacturing base goals and aims to create a technology platform across all manufacturing processes, focusing on three key areas of technology research and demonstration: Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise, Intelligent Machining and Advanced Analysis.

“These contract awards represent a huge milestone for DMDII,” said Dr. Dean Bartles, the Chief Manufacturing Officer at UI LABS and Executive Director of DMDII. “After developing an infrastructure that fosters collaboration and innovation, we’re now launching our first research projects that promise to make American manufacturers more competitive and improve their bottom line. Along with our cooperative partners at the Department of Defense, we’re excited to continue the forward momentum, and we’re looking forward to sponsoring new projects and announcing more contracts in the future.”

“These awards highlight that our collaborative innovation model is working,” said Dr. Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI LABS. “We see a bright future for industry-led consortia to solve large-scale societal challenges to close the gap between innovation and commercialization.”

The awards will sponsor research projects to develop software, tools and industry-changing solutions aimed at lowering production costs by increasing the speed and efficiency of a variety of manufacturing processes. Four of the five awards are funded by the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“The work performed through DMDII’s first contract awards will allow us to mitigate the big issues of interoperability and manual systems that will lead to saving defense and domestic manufacturers significant resources currently lost to time and cost overruns,” said Dr. Greg Harris, DMDII’s Program Manager through the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.

“We are developing a ‘digital thread’ across all facets of the manufacturing process,” said George Barnych, DMDII’s Director of Research & Development Programs. “The first five awards begin to develop key technologies that will allow us to ‘stitch together’ the digital thread from the front end of design all the way through the production process and supply logistics.” Barnych continued, “This is a major step in bringing together the best and the brightest from the private, public and academic sectors to reshape the landscape of manufacturing in our country.”

DMDII’s first five contract awards are as follows:

Structural Composites – Blade Multidisciplinary Design and Analysis - 14-01-06
Lead Organization: Green Dynamics Inc.
Other Organizations on this Team: MetaMorph Inc.; University of Delaware; Vanderbilt University; PTC, Inc.; MSC Software Corporation; Pennsylvania State University, Applied Research Laboratory

Partners will work together to integrate a suite of analysis tools under a common intuitive user interface specifically focused on wind turbines. Successful implementation of this software approach will reduce barriers to entry for smaller composite material developers and shorten cycle times for current manufacturers—all while providing a comprehensive cost and manufacturing model to prevent overruns.

Mind the Gap - Filling the Gap between CAD and CNC with Engineering Services - 14-02-02
Lead Organization: STEP Tools, Inc.
Other Organizations on this Team: Pennsylvania State University, Applied Research Laboratory; Vanderbilt University

The Mind the Gap project aims to develop and deliver cloud services to optimize and monitor computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining. The new services will operate on 3D digital models, which are easier to share and modify than traditional code-based models.

Automated Assembly Planning: From CAD model to Virtual Assembly Process - 14-02-04
Lead Organization: Oregon State University
Other Organizations on this Team: ESI North America

This project aims to develop a computational tool to automatically transform a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) assembly into a set of assembly instructions with as little initial user commitment as possible. Quick predictions of an assembly plan will provide feedback to both design and industrial engineers so that they can see how their decisions impact assembly time and cost. For manufacturing companies that choose to use the developed toolset, it could result in millions of dollars in savings.

Automatic Tolerancing of Mechanical Assemblies from STEP AP203: Completion of Adaptive Vehicle Make Tasks - 14-02-05
Lead Organization: Design Automation Lab, Arizona State University

This project will investigate algorithms to automate tolerance allocation of mechanical assemblies. This will include 1st order Geometric Dimension & Tolerancing (GD&T), which is based solely on geometric assemblability, as well as partial support of 2nd order tolerancing, which is based on design intent or function of assemblies, including fit types and fasteners. This will result in lower product cost due to better tolerance control, lower scrap rate, and quicker product development time by reducing trial and error in tolerance allocation.

Intelligent Adaptive Machining Fixtures for Castings (IAMFixR) - 14-07-03
Lead Organization: Product Development & Analysis (PDA) LLC
Other Organizations on this Team: American Foundry Society; Design Automation Lab, Arizona State University; Steel Founders’ Society of America

A collaboration between a metal casting contract manufacturer and an academic research lab, the goal of this project is to develop a set of methods and a software enabler, called “IAMFixR,” to reduce the setup time for the machining of large castings and fabrications, and to virtually eliminate scrapping any of these high value parts. The team aims to incorporate the casting industry standard into a 3D model and use digital technology to capture the changing dimensions of features critical to machining operation for every part produced in a production environment.

The five applied research and demonstration projects will take between 12-18 months to complete.

For more information, visit: www.dmdii.org

Published in UI LABS

Much like Baymax, the robot star of the animated feature "Big Hero 6," a soft robot skin developed by Disney Research uses air-filled cavities to cushion collisions and to provide the pressure feedback necessary for grasping delicate objects.

The researchers successfully used a pair of 3-D-printed soft skin modules to pick up a disposable plastic cup without breaking it, a roll of printer paper without crushing or creasing it and a piece of tofu without smashing it. Collision tests showed that the inflatable modules reduced the peak force of frontal impacts by 32-52 percent and side impacts by 26-37 percent.

"Humans interacting with robots in everyday environments is no longer just science fiction," said Joohyung Kim, associate research scientist. "Making them soft is particularly important for robots that will interact with children, the elderly, or with patients."

Kim and his Disney colleagues, Katsu Yamane and Alexander Alspach, presented their findings at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2015) on Sept. 28 in Hamburg, Germany.

The air-filled skin modules can absorb unexpected impacts. By monitoring pressure changes that occur when the airtight, but flexible chamber is deformed, it also can serve as a contact sensor, providing feedback for touching, grasping and manipulating.

The researchers built soft skin modules that were cylindrical with hemispheric ends, a little less than 5 inches long and about 2 ½ inches in diameter. In addition to the air-filled outer skin, each module included a rigid link at the center. The modules thus could employ a variety of material properties, from flexible to rigid.

In experiments using only the rigid link, with the outer, inflated skins removed, the researchers were able to use them to grasp a disposable cup. But without the pressure feedback provided by the soft skin, the cup ultimately was crushed. With the soft skins attached, the researchers obtained sufficient pressure feedback to grip the cup, and hold other delicate objects, without damaging them.

The same design concept used to produce the modules can be employed to make other modules of varying geometries, they noted.

For more information, visit: www.disneyresearch.com/publication/3d-printed-soft-skin

Published in Disney Research

Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has developed scratch-resistant, formable hardcoat films for the decorative design of component surfaces in automotive interiors. After high-gloss films with a piano finish proved successful, the use of matte film grades is now on the rise. At the Fakuma trade show from October 13 to 17, 2015, Covestro is introducing Makrofol® HF polycarbonate films with various matte levels.

“They range from matte, finely textured surfaces with a high level of diffusion, to glare-free films and deep matte grades,” said Dirk Pophusen, Head of Product and Applications Development for Specialty Films in Europe. At an angle of 60°, these matte products display a gloss level of just 1.9 units when backprinted black. The finely textured matte films achieve gloss levels between 70 and 75 under the same conditions.

“Matte films can easily be printed, formed or back-injected in a film insert molding process, just like their high-gloss counterparts,” said Roland Künzel, Head of the Technical Center for Film Processing in Dormagen. The good formability, even with small radii of curvature and high depth of draw, are due to the special coating layer, which is based on a dispersion coating that is only pre-cured. The forming process precedes final curing with conventional UV lamps. The three-dimensional crosslinking of the coating lends the films their high scratch and abrasion resistance; the films are also resistant to sun protection products and chemicals.

With the help of these pre-cured films, manufacturers can produce quality interior components with three-dimensional matte and scratch-resistant surfaces, and still dispense with the costly and complex coating step. In addition to using Makrofol® HF in automotive interior design, for instance for side fascia, Covestro also sees opportunities for its application in consumer electronics, IT equipment and in combination with printed polymer electronics.

Covestro offers a wide range of polycarbonate and thermoplastic elastomer films for a variety applications, not to mention a line of premium specialty films. Three technology centers in Germany steer development activities for Europe and are equipped with modern fabricating, processing and testing facilities: The Competence Center for Blown Film Technology in Bomlitz, for Flat Films in Dormagen and for Film Coatings in Leverkusen. “Our overall aim is to gear all efforts to market trends and the needs of our customers even more than before,” said Pophusen.

Our center for polycarbonate-based flat films in Dormagen is now also home to our Technical Center for Film Processing, an expanded showroom and two research laboratories, one of which has been totally re-equipped.

The matte and high-gloss coated polycarbonate films described above are developed and produced at the Competence Center for Film Coatings in Leverkusen.

Multi-layer thermoplastic elastomer films are the core activity at the center in Bomlitz. In addition to large-scale plants, Covestro also operates a pilot facility for multi-layer blown films, which are used, for example, in medical applications as well as the automotive and textile industries.

With 2014 sales of EUR 11.7 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and sports and leisure industries. The Covestro group has 30 production sites around the globe and employed approximately 14,200 people at the end of 2014. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, is a Bayer Group company.

For more information, visit: www.covestro.com

Published in Covestro

The BASF site in Southfield, Michigan hosted a grand opening ceremony for a new technical laboratory for its customers in the coatings and plastics industries. The newly refurbished 32,000 square foot building represents an investment of approximately $20 million dollars and can accommodate up to 50 people engaged in research, development and technical service, to serve customers and encourage collaboration.

“The laboratory is a significant investment in BASF’s operations in Michigan, allowing continued job growth and supporting customer satisfaction at the Southfield campus” said Greg Pflum, Vice President and General Manager, of the BASF Mid-West Hub.  “This important endeavor increases the diversity of BASF groups working in Southfield. We thank our employees and contractors who safely constructed the project over the last 14 months.”

The state-of-the-art laboratory will support the formulation needs for pigments, resins, performance and formulation additives that are used in transportation, industrial, furniture, and floor coatings and plastics applications.  It centralizes laboratory operations for the Dispersions & Pigments Divisions’ Transportation, Industrial Coatings and Plastics (TICP) business which had been operating from three different locations in the United States prior to the lab opening.

”Focusing on our customers’ needs is the priority for the team working in this new laboratory,” stated Michael McHenry, Vice President, TICP and Printing, Packaging & Adhesives for BASF in North America.  “Our employees now have the ease of collaboration with colleagues and working together in a common location to solve our customers’ problems and help them be more successful.”

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, invited guests and employees toured the laboratory to learn more about the technical capabilities now available at BASF’s Southfield campus.

For more information, visit: www.basf.com

Published in BASF

Boeing announced the opening of its research and technology center in South Carolina, which is devoted to current and next-generation technology development.

Boeing leaders joined local dignitaries and employees for a ribbon cutting and tours of the 104,000-square-foot Boeing Research & Technology-South Carolina center, which leads the company's research and development efforts in areas of advanced manufacturing with a focus on composite fuselage and propulsion systems production. The center broke ground in early 2014.

"This new research center will help us better meet the needs of our customers by enhancing our ability to provide effective, relevant technology in today's competitive marketplace as we enter our second century of business," said John Tracy, Boeing chief technology officer and senior vice president of Engineering, Operations & Technology.

The state-of-the-art center includes lab spaces where scientists and engineers research and develop technologies in advanced production systems; nondestructive evaluation and inspection; production analytics and advanced test systems; structural repair technologies; electromagnetic effects; chemical technology; and composite fabrication and materials. The center also includes two autoclaves, which are used to cure parts made from composite materials; a paint booth with automation capabilities; and a clean room to combine composite layers together.

"The people and facilities we're introducing today will help us apply new technology and solutions to our products across the entire company faster and more efficiently than ever before," said Lane Ballard, leader of the Boeing Research & Technology-South Carolina center.

"Increasing our research and development footprint here demonstrates our continued commitment to the state of South Carolina, and will help Boeing and the region attract, develop and retain the best talent in the industry," said Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina.

BR&T is the company's advanced research and development organization, providing technologies that enable the development of future aerospace solutions while improving the cycle time, cost, quality and performance of existing Boeing products and services. BR&T-South Carolina joins the company's 10 other research centers around the world in Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, India, Russia and the United States, including Alabama, California, Missouri, South Carolina and Washington.

For more information, visit: www.boeing.com/company/about-bca/south-carolina-production-facility.page

Published in Boeing

NASA is giving university and college students an opportunity to be part of the agency’s journey to Mars with the Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge.

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program (GCD), managed by the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) are seeking innovative ideas for generating lift using inflatable spacecraft heat shields or hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (HIAD) technology.

"NASA is currently developing and flight testing HIADs -- a new class of relatively lightweight deployable aeroshells that could safely deliver more than 22 tons to the surface of Mars," said Steve Gaddis, GCD manager at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. "A crewed spacecraft landing on Mars would need to weigh between 15 and 30 tons."

The NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is the heaviest payload ever landed on the Red Planet -- weighing in at only one ton. To slow a vehicle carrying a significantly heavier payload through the thin Martian atmosphere and safely land it on the surface is a significant challenge. NASA is addressing this challenge through the development of large aeroshells that can provide enough aerodynamic drag to decelerate and deliver larger payloads. HIAD technology is a leading idea because these kinds of aeroshells can also generate lift, which would allow the agency to potentially do different kinds of missions.

Interested teams of three to five undergraduate and/or graduate students are asked to submit white papers describing their concepts by November 15th. Concepts may employ new approaches such as shape morphing and pneumatic actuation to dynamically alter the HIAD inflatable structure.

Selected teams will continue in the competition by submitting in the spring of 2016 full technical papers on the concept. Up to four teams will present their concepts to a panel of NASA judges at the BIG Idea Forum at Langley in April 2016.

Each finalist team will receive a $6,000 stipend to assist with full participation in the forum. BIG Idea Challenge winners will receive offers of paid internships with the GCD team at Langley, where they can potentially work toward a flight test of their concept.

For more information, visit: bigidea.nianet.org

Published in NASA

Local Motors and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas have partnered to create a research and development program that will create new technologies for automobiles. UNLV’s new Drones and Autonomous Systems Lab (DASL) will work with Local Motors to create autonomous systems for cars.

UNLV is now a part of the Local Motors LOCO Program. Short for Local Motors Co-Created, the LOCO University Vehicle Program advances the automotive education and research initiatives of our university partner programs in the cutting-edge fields of 3D printing, vehicle autonomy and more. The LOCO program provides university students and faculty with the projects, vehicles, and co-creation platform needed to quickly develop the next generation of vehicle technology. Partner universities engage in the LOCO program as a way to attract future students and donors, as well as help facilitate tech transfer into commercial value.

“This partnership with UNLV is an example of how Local Motors is using the power of co-creation to advance vehicle technology,” said Corey Clothier, Local Motors lead for automated vehicle development. “We will begin selling the world’s first 3D-printed car next year, and we’re excited for UNLV to be a piece of automotive history.”

Local Motors recently delivered its 3D-printed LOCO vehicle to UNLV. The team from DASL, headed by Paul Oh, plans to equip the first vehicle with autonomy sensory equipment that will allow its robot, DRC-Hubo, to drive the vehicle.

“Local Motors’ vision and realization of microfactories is truly exciting and DASL is thrilled to be an active partner in this vision,” Oh said. “Microfactories combined with cloud-computing, wireless networking and connectivity yield bold innovations for inspiring wonder and empowering creativity.”

Local Motors plans on outfitting the UNLV DASL team with iterations of its highway-ready 3D-printed car during the next year.

For more information, visit: www.localmotors.com

Published in Local Motors

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Autodesk are joining forces to explore how design software can accelerate innovation for three-dimensional printing of advanced materials.

Under an 18-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), LLNL will use state-of-the-art software for generative design from San Rafael-based Autodesk Inc. as it studies how new material microstructures, arranged in complex configurations and printed with additive manufacturing techniques, will produce objects with physical properties that were never before possible.

In the project, LLNL researchers will bring to bear several key technologies, such as additive manufacturing, material modeling and architected design (arranging materials at the micro and nanoscale through computational design).

LLNL and Autodesk have selected next-generation protective helmets as a test case for their technology collaboration, studying how to improve design performance.

“As an organization that is pushing the limits on generative design and high-performance computing, Autodesk is an ideal collaborator as we investigate next-generation manufacturing,” said Anantha Krishnan, LLNL’s associate director for engineering.

“With its extensive cross-industry customer base, Autodesk can help us examine how our foundational research in architected materials and new additive manufacturing technology might transfer into a variety of domains.”

Mark Davis, Autodesk’s senior director of design research, called helmet design an excellent example of a design problem with multiple objectives, such as the constraints of desired weight, cost, durability, material thickness and response to compression.

“Giving the software goals and constraints as input, then allowing the computer to synthesize form and optimize across multiple materials, will lead to the discovery of unexpected, high-performing designs that would not have otherwise been pursued,” Davis added.

Patrick Dempsey, LLNL’s director of strategic engagements, noted: “Livermore is excited about combining its knowledge in materials and microstructures with the capabilities of a global leader in design software to demonstrate the ability of additive manufacturing to create new products.”

Through the application of goal-oriented design software tools, LLNL and Autodesk expect to generate and analyze the performance of very large sets – thousands to tens of thousands – of different structural configurations of material microarchitectures.

In addition to benefiting from the use of computer software, helmet design also stands to receive considerable advantages from additive manufacturing.

Helmets represent a class of objects whose internal structures not only need to be lightweight, but also must absorb impact and dissipate energy predictably.

Advanced additive manufacturing techniques are expected to allow the LLNL/Autodesk researchers to produce complex material microstructures that will dissipate energy better than what is currently possible with traditionally manufactured helmet pads such as foams and pads.

LLNL’s Eric Duoss, a materials engineer and the co-principal investigator for the CRADA with Lab computational engineer Dan White, believes the agreement could lead to new design methodologies with helmets as just one example.

“The difference in the design method we are proposing versus historically is that many of the previous manufacturing constraints can be eliminated,” Duoss said.

“Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity for unprecedented breakthroughs in new structures and new material properties for a wide range of applications,” Duoss added.

It has yet to be determined what kinds of helmets will be designed under the CRADA, but sports helmets, including football, baseball, biking and skiing, are possible, according to Duoss.

“One of the important things we hope to gain from this CRADA is to know what a great helmet design looks like, and we aim to build and test components of those helmet designs,” he said.

Within the past two years, the Lab’s Additive Manufacturing Initiative team has used 3D printing to produce ultralight and ultrastiff mechanical materials that don’t exist in nature, produced mechanical energy absorbing materials and printed graphene aerogels.

Francesco Lorio, primary investigator on the Autodesk team and a computational science expert, explains: "By combining the advanced additive manufacturing techniques at LLNL with our ability to compute shapes made of complex combinations of materials, we stand to find breakthrough designs for the helmet.” His team envisions a future where any product can be composed of bespoke materials “appropriately distributed at the micro and macro scale to optimally satisfy a desired function.”

Other LLNL staffers working on the project are: computational engineers Nathan Barton, Mark Messner and Todd Weisgraber; chemical engineer Tom Wilson, materials engineer Tim Ford, chemist Jeremy Lenhardt, applied physicist Willy Moss and mechanical engineer Michael King.

The Lab’s Additive Manufacturing Initiative team is developing new approaches to integrating design, fabrication and certification of advanced materials.

Using high-performance computing, new materials are modeled virtually and then optimized computationally. The Lab is simultaneously advancing the science of additive manufacturing and materials science, as demonstrated by its work in micro-architected metamaterials – artificial materials with properties not found in nature.

Published in LLNL

Two separate University of Pittsburgh research projects to improve design development for structures in in additive manufacturing were among nine contracts funded by America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. The two projects, directed by faculty in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, will receive more than $1.7 million in America Makes' Project Call #3.

To date, Swanson School faculty have been awarded more than $2.3 million in contracts toward additive manufacturing research from America Makes, the National Science Foundation, and Research for Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania.

Principal investigator for "Integrated Design Tool Development for High Potential AM Applications" is Albert To, PhD , associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, in conjunction with Aerotech, ANSYS, EOS of North America, ExOne, Honeywell, Marcus Machinery, Materials Sciences Corporation, RTI International Metals (Alcoa Titanium & Engineered Products), United Technologies Research Center, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center. This $961,112 contract is in support of an extension of the research previously awarded to Dr. To by America Makes.

"AM technologies are capable of producing very complex geometries and topologies, tremendously expanding the limited design space allowed by traditional manufacturing methods. However, existing CAD/CAE software packages to date have not taken full advantage of this enormous design freedom," Dr. To explained. "We plan to create an integrated design suite that can be rapidly commercialized, thereby helping industry minimize design time, lower manufacturing cost, and reduce time to market for new AM product development."

M. Ravi Shankar, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering, is principal investigator of "Parametric Design of Functional Support Structures for Metal Alloy Feedstocks." Collaborators on the $805,966 contract include ITAMCO, Johnson & Johnson, and the University of Notre Dame.

"Support structures play two important roles in additive manufacturing - holding a part in place, and dissipating heat during manufacturing. However, these structures are very simple and few rules exist for designing them," Dr. Shankar said. "We want to codify the design rules for support structures used in Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) to inform and then automatically recommend the optimal part orientation and the designs for optimized supports. Also, by better controlling the design, we can more effectively draw away the heat during manufacturing and minimize distortion."

Led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes' Project Call #3 for additive manufacturing (AM) applied research and development projects provided up to $8 million in funding toward these projects with $11 million in matching cost share from the awarded project teams for total funding worth $19 million. The Institute's third project call, which was released in February 2015, was focused on five technical additive manufacturing topic areas-design, material, process, value chain, and genome-each with subset focus areas. Proposals could address one or more technical topic areas, but had to address all evaluation criteria.

For more information, visit: www.americamakes.us/engage/projects

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.

For more information, visit: www.cc.gatech.edu

Published in Georgia Tech

Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research and Dassault Systemes will partner on an advanced manufacturing center on the Innovation Campus.

The 3DExperience Center, which will be located within the Experiential Engineering Building, will focus on enabling advanced product development and manufacturing of next generation manufacturing materials and technologies. The center is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The center will employ students and up to eight staff from Dassault Systemes, a global company serving 190,000 customers in 12 industries and 140 countries. The center will be available to industry and for university research and coursework.

"The whole learning model of classroom learning, practicing in a lab environment and performing production work with one of the industry partners is embodied in the 3DExperience Center," said Jeff Smith, director, Ideas Lab, aerospace and defense industry, Dassault Systemes. "Students will be able to engage in the future of advanced product development and manufacturing."

The 3DExperience Center will focus on enabling advanced product development and manufacturing, next generation manufacturing materials and technologies using Dassault Systemes' 3DExperience platform and brand applications, including:

  • Development of new engineered materials
  • Simulation and optimization of materials, additive manufacturing processes and systems
  • Multi-Robotic Advanced Manufacturing
  • Certification of the end-to-end process


"Dassault Systemes is an essential partner in WSU's Innovation Campus, a world-class center where researchers, students and industry come together to experience their ideas," said John Tomblin, WSU vice president for research and technology transfer and NIAR executive director. "The 3DExperience Center provides the capability to go from the concept, to a full experience of the idea, to the realization of seeing that idea being developed and manufactured. It will be a core enabler of additive manufacturing in aerospace as well as other industries."

Additive manufacturing promises companies the ability to design any shape without restriction, giving the opportunity to create a paradigm shift in the industry. Manufacturers can reduce waste by up to 90 percent and eliminate mistakes that impact quality and cost.

"Additive manufacturing has high potential for aerospace and other industries and goes far beyond just 3D printing. It requires an understanding of new materials down to the molecular level, how those materials perform under any scenario, how they can be expediently and cost-effectively manufactured and how each piece of the ultimate system can be certified," said Michel Tellier, vice president, aerospace and defense industry, Dassault Systemes. "The center will leverage the 3DExperience platform's immersive and robotic applications and Dassault Systemes' expertise in materials and simulation. Tomorrow's materials will push the evolution of airplane design, production and operation into a new era."

Funding for the laboratory equipment was provided by a $1.9 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant awarded in 2014. It is being configured and tested in NIAR's Robotics and Automation Lab at the National Center for Aviation Training.

For more information, visit: www.niar.wichita.edu

Published in NIAR

Professor Iain Todd, Director of the Mercury Centre, has been appointed The University of Sheffield and GKN Aerospace Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) research chair in additive manufacturing.

Supported by GKN Aerospace, the University and the Royal Academy of Engineering, for the next five years Prof Todd will focus on harnessing and developing the extraordinary potential of additive manufacturing (AM) for aerospace and other high value industrial sectors.

The role will have three fundamental aims: to assist in the industrialization of the current state-of-the-art technology as GKN moves towards production; to develop the required technology to enable the integration of materials and processes, extending its application in the short term; to create entirely innovative processes and materials that will carry industry well beyond what is currently possible.

Russ Dunn, Senior Vice President Engineering & Technology, explains: “AM technologies promise a paradigm shift in engineering design and materials. We will be able to create previously impossible or totally uneconomical shapes, with little or no material wastage, and in the longer term we will be able to develop completely new materials and structures fully optimized for the role they perform.  This new chair will build on GKN’s existing developments in additive manufacturing and will sit at the heart of work to ensure UK industry continues to be a pioneering force in this global revolution in engineering.”

Professor Iain Todd says “I’m delighted and honored to be appointed to this prestigious role and look forward to working with GKN Aerospace and the Royal Academy of Engineering in promoting, researching and helping to drive this hugely exciting and disruptive manufacturing technology forwards. This is a very exciting time for advanced manufacturing and materials research in the UK. My role will be to strengthen the link between industry and academia in these fields and to transfer the engineering and scientific breakthroughs at the University level to industrial practice helping to drive productivity and competitiveness.

Professor Ric Parker CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research and Secondments Committee, says: “We are delighted to support this Chair as part of the University of Sheffield’s ongoing and productive collaboration with GKN. Additive manufacturing is an important area for research and development, which has enormous potential to improve industrial processes and UK productivity in the future.”

Professor Todd is recognized as a leading academic researcher in the fields of novel processing and alloys. He has led research into additive manufacturing at the University of Sheffield since its commencement in 2006 and has been a driving force in the growth of the world-leading manufacturing research facility, The Mercury Centre. The current University of Sheffield AM research portfolio includes work on the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) supported, £15M Horizon Programme, led by GKN Aerospace, as well as collaborative research with organizations such as the Culham Centre for Fusion Engineering and CERN.

The University, GKN Aerospace and the Royal Academy of Engineering will make a combined investment worth £1m to support the chair over the five years, with the GKN Aerospace investment including funding for an additional 10 PhD students to support Professor Todd and the team of over 20 senior research staff already operating at the university.

The University has an established relationship with GKN Aerospace, most recently through the Horizon AM programme. They also support PhD and EngD programmes and provide undergraduate student placements.

For more information, visit: www.sheffield.ac.uk/materials/staff/itodd

Published in The Mercury Centre

Traditional robots are made of components and rigid materials like you might see on an automotive assembly line – metal and hydraulic parts, harshly rigid, and extremely strong. But away from the assembly line, for robots to harmoniously assist humans in close–range tasks scientists are designing new classes of soft–bodied robots. Yet one of the challenges is integrating soft materials with requisite rigid components that power and control the robot's body. At the interface of these materials, stresses concentrate and structural integrity can be compromised, which often results in mechanical failure.

But now, by understanding how organisms solve this problem by assembling their bodies in a way that produces a gradual transitioning from hard to soft parts, a team of Wyss Institute researchers and their collaborators have been able to use a novel 3d printing strategy to construct entire robots in a single build that incorporate this biodesign principle. The strategy permits construction of highly complex and robust structures that can't be achieved using conventional nuts and bolts manufacturing. A proof–of–concept soft–bodied autonomous jumping robot prototype was 3D printed layer upon layer to ease the transition from its rigid core components to a soft outer exterior using a series of nine sequential material gradients.

"We leveraged additive manufacturing to holistically create, in one uninterrupted 3D printing session, a single body fabricated with nine sequential layers of material, increasing in stiffness from rigid to soft towards the outer body,” said the study's co–senior author Robert Wood, Ph.D, who is a Core Faculty member and co–leader of the Bioinspired Robotics Platform at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Founder of the Harvard Microrobotics Lab. 'By employing a gradient material strategy, we have greatly reduced stress concentrations typically found at the interfaces of soft and rigid components which has resulted in an extremely durable robot."

With the expertise of study co–author and Wyss Institute Senior Research Scientist James Weaver, Ph.D., who is a leader in high–resolution, multi–material 3D printing, the team was able to 3D print the jumping robot's body in one single 3D printing session. Usually, 3D printing is only used to fabricate parts of robots, and is only very recently being used to print entire functional robots. And this jumping robot is the first entire robot to ever be 3D printed using a gradient rigid–to–soft layering strategy.

The autonomous robot is powered – without the use of wires or tethers – by an explosive actuator on its body that harnesses the combustion energy of butane and oxygen. It utilizes three tilting pneumatic legs to control the direction of its jumps, and its soft, squishy exterior reduces the risk of damage upon landings, makes it safer for humans to operate in close proximity, and increases the robot's overall lifespan. It was developed based on previous combustion–based robots designed by co–senior author George Whitesides, Ph.D., who is a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member and the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University.

"Traditional molding–based manufacturing would be impractical to achieve a functionally–graded robot, you would need a new mold every time you change the robot’s design. 3D printing manufacturing is ideal for fabricating the complex and layered body exhibited by our jumping robot," said Nicholas Bartlett, a co–first author on the study and a graduate researcher in bioinspired robotics at the Wyss Institute and Harvard SEAS.

As compared to traditional mold manufacturing, which uses fixed molds, the nature of 3D printing facilitates rapid design iterations with utmost ease, allowing faster prototyping throughout development.

"This new breakthrough demonstrates the power of combining insights into nature's innovations with the most advanced man–made technological advances – in this case 3D printing technologies – when trying to overcome technical limitations that currently hold back a field," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "This ability to fabricate unitary soft robots composed of gradient materials that emulate natural stiffness gradients of living structures paves the way for mass fabrication of robots that can integrate seamlessly with people, whether in our homes, at work or in operating rooms in the future."

Former Wyss Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Michael Tolley, Ph.D., currently Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of University of California, San Diego, is a co–first author on the study. In addition, former Wyss Institute and Harvard SEAS Postdoctoral Fellow Bobak Mosadegh, Ph.D., currently Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering in Radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, is a co–author; Johannes T.B. Overvelde, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard SEAS, is a co–author; and Katia Bertoldi, Ph.D., who is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Natural Sciences at Harvard SEAS, is a co–senior author.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Images provided by Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

Published in Harvard

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is proud to announce nine awardees of its Project Call #3 for additive manufacturing (AM) applied research and development projects. Driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes will provide up to $8 million in funding toward these projects with $11 million in matching cost share from the awarded project teams for total funding worth $19 million.

“This Project Call is indicative of the ongoing commitment of America Makes and our membership community to collectively target those focus areas that represent the greatest need, demonstrate the greatest impact, and show the most promise for commercialization of critical additive manufacturing technologies for the advancement of our industry at large,” said Rob Gorham, America Makes Director of Operations. “With the addition of the awardees from this Project Call, the America Makes project portfolio is incredibly robust and cutting-edge with the research and development underway to advance additive manufacturing technologies in the United States.”

The Institute’s third project call, which was released in February 2015, was focused on five technical additive manufacturing topic areas—design, material, process, value chain, and genome—each with subset focus areas. Proposals could address one or more technical topic areas, but had to address all evaluation criteria.

Tim Caffrey, Senior Consultant at Wohlers Associates, Inc. and a proposal committee evaluator, characterized the response to Project Call #3 as impressive. “I was struck by both the total number of submissions and the high quality of the proposals. Specifically, the proposals demonstrated close alignment to America Makes' mission and to its Technology Roadmap objectives, which is a testament to the maturity of the member proposal teams. The Institute is definitely operating and performing at an impressive level.”

Subject to the finalization of all contractual details and requirements, the nine selected America Makes Project Call #3 Awardees are as follows:

“Parametric Design of Functional Support Structures for Metal Alloy Feedstocks”
University of Pittsburgh
Led by the University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson, ITAMCO, and the University of Notre Dame, this project will strive to develop parametric designs of functional support structures for metal alloy feedstocks. Specifically, the project team aims to codify the design rules for support structures used in Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) to inform and then automatically recommend the optimal part orientation and the designs for optimized supports. Currently during part builds, support structures are not only essential to laying part foundations and providing structural support, but also are critical to eliminating part warp during powder recoating and improving heat extraction. However, few rules exist for designing support structures. Moreover, while AM machine tool software packages have the ability to add support structures, these existing capabilities are fairly primitive, not taking into consideration part orientation, distortion, or heat extraction uniformity.

“Multidisciplinary Design Analysis for Seamless AM Design, Analysis, Build, and Redesign Workflows”
Raytheon
Led by Raytheon, in conjunction with General Electric, Altair, ANSYS, Autodesk, NetFabb, the University of Wisconsin, and the Raytheon-University of Massachusetts Lowell Research Institute (RURI), this project will focus on multidisciplinary design analysis for seamless AM design, analysis, build, and redesign workflows that help streamline the design process and make it easier for engineers and technicians to develop mass-customizable engineered solutions suitable for AM. The project will address the development of Design For Manufacturability (DFM) criteria and rules that make step change improvements in the cycle time required to perform AM CAD/CAM/CAE analyses and design optimization, as well as the critical technology element (CTE) of design aides that provide key knowledge to design teams to perform trade-offs between AM and traditional processes. The project will also create the baseline methodology to perform trades between various AM material-process family alternatives and make improved decisions based on the required end product application.

“Economic Production of Next Generation Orthopedic Materials through Powder Reuse in AM”
University of Notre Dame
Led by the University of Notre Dame, in conjunction with Case Western Reserve University, SCM Metal Products Inc., Zimmer Inc., and DePuy Synthes, this project will address the economic production of next-generation orthopedic materials through powder reuse in AM. One of the major factors limiting AM’s extension to batch production is how to optimize the number of parts in a single AM build without negatively impacting part quality. The powder is expensive and poorly utilized in a typical build with only 5 to 20 percent of the powder volume fused into useful parts. Depending upon the material and machine manufacturer, it may be possible to reuse the powder. However, it is recognized that powder undergoes changes when it is exposed to a working atmosphere at elevated temperatures in an AM machine. All of these complications can be accommodated, but only if the impact on the mechanical properties is known and understood. This remains a critical need. This project will focus on the reuse of powder in AM, with particular emphasis on Ti-6Al-4V, stainless steel, and nylon.

“Integrated Design Tool Development for High Potential AM Applications”

University of Pittsburgh
Led by the University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with ANSYS, United Technologies Research Center, Honeywell, Materials Science Corporation, Aerotech, ExOne, RTI International Metals, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, this project team aims to develop an integrated design suite with built-in design aides for various AM manufacturability requirements and new topology optimization capabilities for high potential AM applications. AM technologies are now capable of producing very complex geometries and topologies, tremendously expanding the limited design space allowed by traditional manufacturing methods. However, existing CAD/CAE software packages to date have not taken full advantage of the enormous design freedom afforded by AM. By addressing this industry need, this project team seeks to create an integrated design suite that can be rapidly commercialized, helping to minimize time of the design phase, lower manufacturing cost, and reduce time to market for new AM product development.

“A Flexible Adaptive Open Architecture to Enable a Robust Third-Party Ecosystem for Metal Powder Bed Fusion AM Systems”

GE Global Research
Led by GE Global Research, in conjunction with GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and MatterFab Corp., the objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate open architecture control systems for powder bed fusion additive manufacturing (PBFAM). Today, PBFAM for metals is evolving from rapid prototyping (RP) into mass production. However, high-volume production of mission-critical components must meet rigid engineering and quality standards that far exceed those of RP applications. While the industrial need to address these issues is immediate, the demand for solutions outpaces the capabilities of machine suppliers due in large part to the closed-architecture approach of existing OEMs. An open architecture for the PBFAM process that is flexible and easily adapted will enable a Function Applications Ecosystem, creating the opportunity for third-party hardware for ancillary processes to be easily integrated into PBFAM machines, thus accelerating AM advancements. Additionally, this hardware-focused project will directly complement an ongoing America Makes project, which is focused on open-source protocol and software for PBFAM and also is being executed by GE Global Research, and will be executed by two synergistic sub-teams.

“Digital Threading of AM”
Boeing
Led by Boeing, in conjunction with Aerojet, Raytheon, ITI, and Stratonics, Inc., the digital threading of AM project will enable an art-to-part integrated process and tools that reduce cost and cycle time by minimizing material deposition, component finishing processes, and the application of automation between process steps. This project will demonstrate the impact on processing costs, material lifecycle costs, quality control costs, labor costs, and energy requirement reductions by applying an industry unique and innovative combination of in-situ process monitoring capabilities that links data with the entire digital thread to improve information provided to the additive processes. Data obtained during the additive process will also be used for further improvement by correlating non-destructive inspection results with design and process information. The results are sets of information that directly impact and monitor the key metrics and information that supports improved engineering and manufacturing engineering design for additive. Combined, the in-situ monitoring capability, and the linking and analysis of digital thread information will enable companies to reduce time to market and reduce overall lifecycle costs.

“A Design Guidance System for AM”
Georgia Institute of Technology
Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology, in conjunction with Siemens Corporate Technology, MSC, Senvol, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at Arlington, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Woodward, Siemens Energy, and Siemens PLM, this project team aims to address several gaps and deficiencies in the manufacturing design to print workflow with a design guidance system for AM. In the current landscape, CAE tools are force fit to interface with AM within the design workflow. In addition to the extensive list of existing gaps within this makeshift workflow, several high-level workflow categories are also incompatible and missing from the current landscape, including decision tools for manufacturing process selection and justification, Finite Element Analysis for certification and validation of parts, and compatibility with Product Lifecycle Management software for configuration management. This project will focus on many of the gaps in the existing AM design to print workflow, enable the insertion of the decision tools and certification and validation of parts workflow categories, and provide a near seamless software ecosystem to eliminate the discontinuity in switching between multiple software tools by the passing of generic payload file formats, working towards the complete and ideal workflow.

“Cyber-Physical Design and AM of Custom Orthoses”

University of Michigan

Led by the University of Michigan, in conjunction with Altair ProductDesign Inc. and Stratasys Ltd., this project will streamline the digital workflow for AM design through the development of AM-specific functionality built on Altair® OptiStruct®, an optimization software package, generating unique fill patterns and digitally validating performance, while making key improvements in throughput and material offerings, using fused deposition modeling (FDM®) technology to produce customized ankle-foot orthoses (AFO). Healthcare is one of key markets in need of customized solutions, e.g. orthoses and prostheses. The current custom, fabrication method is decades-old and based on plaster-molds and hand crafting, and is not without its challenges, including long delivery time, multiple required visits, and limited design flexibility. Mass-customization is achievable by AM, however, fabrication time for custom AFO is in the range of 20 to 30 hours. Although a significant acceleration, due to the limitations in throughput, using AM for custom orthoses is not cost-effective. This project team seeks to leverage cloud-based design and AM technologies to achieve the throughput and performance requirements, advancements in design for AM, material offerings, system improvements, and a method to print multiple materials with multiple tip sizes to provide cost-effective, high-quality orthoses.

“A Low-cost Industrial Multi3D System for 3D Electronics Manufacturing”

The University of Texas at El Paso
Led by The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, Stratasys Ltd., Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell, and Draper Laboratory, this project team seeks to deploy the next generation of AM technology into a low-cost industrial multi3D system for 3D electronics manufacturing. The goal of the proposed effort is to capitalize on the learnings of the ongoing, original America Makes project at UTEP, which focused on integrating a comprehensive manufacturing suite into a base AM fabrication process, and optimize a process for a low-cost industrial system to be housed within a single enclosure for a much wider adoption of this technology. This project will include the development of a consolidated system, including a flexible tooling dock integrated within an existing CNC gantry, which will allow the interchange of (1) precision micro-machining, (2) thermoplastic extrusion, (3) direct wire embedding with wire management, and (4) direct foil embedding. With these interchangeable features, the system will be able to fabricate complex-geometric dielectric structures with densely-routed metallic network topologies.

John Wilczynski, America Makes Deputy Director of Technology Development, said, “As a membership community, America Makes is addressing and overcoming known additive manufacturing challenges by working on innovative solutions that can be rapidly transitioned and commercialized. The response to Project Call #3 was outstanding and we are excited to get these awarded projects underway.”

The anticipated start date of the Project Call #3 is Summer 2015.

For more information, visit: www.americamakes.us

Published in America Makes

Viridis3D, LLC has released an open materials development system called the RAM10™ 3D Printer Materials Development Kit, designed to make R&D fast, cheap, and easy.

The new RAM10™ Materials Development Kit is very simple in construction and has very fast test cycle times with a small build volume and includes: fluids manifold, electronics, and spreader bars. The RAM10™ uses ViriPrint™, which is the same software as the production printers.

According to Viridis3D CTO, Jim Bredt, "Viridis3D has taken a very different tactic from the older large format printer manufacturers. The RAM10™ 3D Printer Development Kit allows users to change powder, binder, firing parameters, tubing, and powder deposition subsystems — enabling distributed development of new materials sets. The similarities allow scale-up to the larger systems to be as seamless as possible."

"We're very eager to see the products that come out of the academic and industrial sectors as they start to use this materials development system," said Will Shambley, President of Viridis3D. We're hoping that by making this easy-to-use development kit, that we will be able to create a thriving development community around the bigger production RAM printers."

The first system was installed recently at Palmer Manufacturing & Supply, Springfield OH. Ken Strausbaugh’s efforts on binder research were quickly rewarded. "It was extremely easy and fast to get the RAM10™ up and running. With a little guidance form Viridis3D, we had a new ink working in just a few days," said Strausbaugh.

For more information, visit: www.viridis3d.com

Published in Viridis3D

Additive manufacturing, including emerging “3D printing” technologies, is booming. Last year an astronaut on the International Space Station used a 3D printer to make a socket wrench in space, hinting at a future when digital code will replace the need to launch specialized tools into orbit. Here on Earth, the Navy is considering applications for additive manufacturing aboard ships, and a commercial aircraft engine company recently announced its first FAA-approved 3D-printed part. Despite its revolutionary promise, however, additive manufacturing is still in its infancy when it comes to understanding the impact of subtle differences in manufacturing methods on the properties and capabilities of resulting materials. Overcoming this shortcoming is necessary to enable reliable mass production of additively manufactured structures such as aircraft wings or other complex components of military systems, which must meet demanding specification requirements.

DARPA’s Open Manufacturing program seeks to solve this problem by building and demonstrating rapid qualification technologies that comprehensively capture, analyze and control variability in the manufacturing process to predict the properties of resulting products. Success could help unleash the potential time and cost saving benefits of advanced manufacturing methods for a broad range of defense and national security needs.

“The Open Manufacturing program is fundamentally about capturing and understanding the physics and process parameters of additive and other novel production concepts, so we can rapidly predict with high confidence how the finished part will perform,” said Mick Maher, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “The reliability and run-to-run variability of new manufacturing techniques are always uncertain at first, and as a result we qualify these materials and processes using a blunt and repetitive ‘test and retest’ approach that is inevitably expensive and time-consuming, ultimately undermining incentives for innovation.”

The challenge with additively manufactured parts is that they are typically composed of countless micron scale weld beads piled on top of each other. Even when well known and trusted alloys are used, the additive process produces a material with a much different microstructure, endowing the manufactured part with different properties and behaviors than would be expected if the same part were made by conventional manufacturing. Moreover, parts made on different machines may be dissimilar enough from each other that current statistical qualification methods won’t work. Accordingly, each new material must be precisely understood and the new process controlled to ensure the required degree of confidence in the manufactured product.

To achieve this enhanced manufacturing control, Open Manufacturing is investigating rapid qualification technologies that could be applied not just to additive manufacturing but to any of a range of potentially new manufacturing methodologies. The program comprises three efforts two focusing on metal additive processes and one on bonded composite structures:

  • The Rapid Low Cost Additive Manufacturing (RLCAM) effort aims to use first-principles and physics-based modeling to predict materials performance for direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) using a nickel-based super alloy powder. In DMLS a laser melts the metal powder to additively build a 3D product.
  • The Titanium Fabrication (tiFAB) effort aims to combine physics and data based informatics models to determine key parameters that affect the quality of large manufactured structures, such as aircraft wings. tiFAB is a method that uses an electron beam instead of a laser to melt spool-fed titanium wire to build up a structure layer by layer.
  • The Transition Reliable Unitized Structure (TRUST) effort aims to develop data informatics approaches for quantification of the composite bonding process to enable adhesives alone to join composite structures. State-of-the-art techniques rely on mechanical fasteners in addition to adhesives. TRUST seeks to eliminate the reliance on these fasteners, thereby enabling bonded composites to take advantage of adhesive joining to streamline assembly and lighten the weight of the structures.


The Open Manufacturing program has established two Manufacturing Demonstration Facilities (MDFs); one at Penn State focused on additive manufacturing and the other at the Army Research Laboratory focused on bonded composites. The goal of these MDFs is to establish permanent reference repositories that endure long after the Open Manufacturing program concludes, where individuals can access various contributed approaches and processes models. The facilities also serve as testing centers to demonstrate applications of the technology being developed for the Department of Defense, its industrial base, and other agencies, and as a catalyst to accelerate adoption of the technology.

Open-Manufacturing also is developing several advanced manufacturing techniques to support defense needs. One of these, MicroFactory for MacroProducts, uses more than 1,000 microbots, each smaller than a penny, that zip around like small insects to efficiently assembly truss structures. Microbots have fabricated 12-inch truss structures with integrated electronics as a proof-of-concept, showing the potential for massive parallelism where thousands of microbots could simultaneously and efficiently build intricate truss structures. This technology could be applied to rapid production of advanced electronics for military systems or constructing wings for very small unmanned aerial systems, for example.

To support warfighters, the program is also demonstrating a framework for affordable, rapid manufacturing of customized orthoses, such as leg supports for injured veterans, in quantities of one. This effort would transform the current “artisan” approach for making customized orthoses—where each device is custom-crafted by a specialist—to an automated process allowing greater patient access, rapid device modifications and improved durability.

Another concept being advanced is seamstress-less sewing, which could enable rapid production of U.S. military uniforms in the United States at lower cost. This demonstrated robotic system uses computer vision to accurately and quickly sew fabrics together with fine thread-count precision. Beyond its potential to support cost-efficient fabrication of U.S. military uniforms in the United States, this technology has the potential to boost the domestic apparel industry in general by, for example, enabling customized apparel production directly from a design.

“Historically, U.S. military advantages were supplied by breakthroughs in materials and manufacturing,” Maher said. “More recently, the risks that come along with new manufacturing have caused a lack of confidence that has stifled adoption. Through the Open Manufacturing program, DARPA is empowering the advanced manufacturing community by providing the knowledge, control, and confidence to use new technology."

For more information, visit: www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/DSO/Programs/Open_Manufacturing_%28OM%29.aspx

Published in DARPA

When Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse, he didn't give much thought to how he might bring his character to life in the real world. But robotics now puts that possibility within reach, so Disney researchers have found a way for a robot to mimic an animated character's walk.

Beginning with an animation of a diminutive, peanut-shaped character that walks with a rolling, somewhat bow-legged gait, Katsu Yamane and his team at Disney Research Pittsburgh analyzed the character's motion to design a robotic frame that could duplicate the walking motion using 3D-printed links and servo motors, while also fitting inside the character's skin. They then created control software that could keep the robot balanced while duplicating the character's gait as closely as possible.

"The biggest challenge is that designers don't necessarily consider physics when they create an animated character," said Yamane, senior research scientist. Roboticists, however, wrestle with physical constraints throughout the process of creating a real-life version of the character.

"It's important that, despite physical limitations, we do not sacrifice style or the quality of motion," Yamane said. The robots will need to not only look like the characters, but move in the way people are accustomed to seeing those characters move.

Yamane and Joohyung Kim of Disney Research Pittsburgh and Seungmoon Song, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, focused first on developing the lower half of such a robot.

"Walking is where physics matter the most," Yamane explained. "If we can find a way to make the lower half work, we can use the exact same procedure for the upper body."

They will describe the techniques and technologies they used to create the bipedal robot at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2015, May 26-30 in Seattle.

Compromises were inevitable. For instance, an analysis of the animated character showed that its ankle and foot had three joints, each of which had three degrees of freedom. Integrating nine actuators in a foot isn't practical. And the researchers realized that the walking motion in the animation wasn't physically realizable - if the walking motion in the animation was used on a real robot, the robot would fall down.

By studying the dynamics of the walking motion in simulation, the researchers realized they could mimic the motion by building a leg with a hip joint that has three degrees of freedom, a knee joint with a single degree of freedom and an ankle with two degrees of freedom.

Because the joints of the robot differ from what the analysis showed that the animated character had, the researchers couldn't duplicate the character's joint movements, but identified the position trajectories of the character's pelvis, hips, knees, ankle and toes that the robot would need to duplicate. To keep the robot from falling, the researchers altered the motion, such as by keeping the character's stance foot flat on the ground.

They then optimized the trajectories to minimize any deviation from the target motions, while ensuring that the robot was stable.

For more information, visit: www.disneyresearch.com/publication/development-of-a-bipedal-robot-that-walks-like-an-animation-character

Published in Disney Research

The Wyss Institute's human organs-on-chips, represented by the human lung, gut and liver chips, have won the 2015 Designs of the Year Awards prize in the best Product design category. The annual awards and museum exhibition by the Design Museum in London recognizes the most innovative, high–impact, and forward–thinking designs from across the world.

"This year's judges were united in their responsibility to award projects that emphasize design's impact on our lives now and in the future. Solving diverse problems with innovation, intelligence and wit, each of these six designs is a worthy winner," said Gemma Curtin, Curator of Designs of the Year, speaking about the six prize winners representing Product, Architecture, Fashion, Transport, Digital and Graphics design.

Currently in its eighth year, the 2015 Designs of the Year Awards & Exhibition features 76 total nominees across six categories, chosen by the world's top design experts, practitioners, curators and academics. This year's awards will climax next month, in June, when an overall Design of the Year prize will be bestowed upon one of the six selected finalists.

To clinch the Product prize, the Wyss' human organs–on–chips competed against 22 other product designs, including: QardioArm, a discreet personal heart monitor; Project Daniel, a lab that braves hostile war conditions to 3D–print prosthetic arms for children in Sudan; Dragonfly, an asymmetric chair inspired by insects; a DIY gamer kit, which can be a technology learning aid for children; CurrentTable, a table that photosynthesizes electricity; and an air–purifying billboard that turns pollution into clean air.

"As a scientist whose work has been influenced and inspired by art and design from the very beginning of my career, I am greatly honored that organs–on–chips have won this year's Product prize for design," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who invented human organs–on–chips alongside Dan Dongeun Huh, Ph.D., who was a Wyss Technology Development Fellow at the time of its invention. "We are thrilled to know that an international forum of experts who are passionate about the power of design appreciate both the elegance and potential impact of our living organs–on–chips microdevices."

The initial human organ-on-a-chip, designed at the Wyss Institute in 2010 by Ingber and Huh, has since been leveraged for the design of several additional human organs-on-chips. These microdevices have the potential ability to deliver transformative change to human health and pharmaceutical care due to the accuracy with which they emulate human organ-level functions. They stand to significantly reduce the need for animal testing by providing a faster, less expensive, less controversial and much more accurate means to predict whether new drug compounds will be successful in human clinical trials. In 2014, the startup company Emulate, Inc., sprang out of the Wyss Institute in order to commercialize human organs-on-chips.

"With drug development costs running into billions of pounds, this entry really caught the imagination of all the judges. It's an intriguing and exciting prospect that has the potential to reduce animal testing, and at the same time speed up development of new drugs," said member of the award jury Richard Woolley, who is Studio Director at Land Rover Design Research & Special Vehicle Operations.

Human organs-on-chips are built using an innovative microfabrication process adapted from the computer chip industry, in which multi-layer photolithography is used to manufacture memory-stick-sized blocks of crystal-clear, flexible rubber that contain hollow microchannels. These microchannels are then lined with living organ cells and blood capillary cells under fluid flow and manipulated mechanically using vacuum-powered movements to replicate organ movements.

The human organs-on-chips and 75 other overall nominees are currently on display in the Designs of the Year Awards Exhibition at the Design Museum in London, which will remain open until August 2015.

Published in Harvard

The Plastics Industry Trade Association joined the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) Plastics Engineering Department to launch the UMass Lowell Plastics Sustainability Research Lab. SPI has been instrumental in procuring equipment for the comprehensive industry-university collaborative laboratory that will be used for studying plastics recycling and sustainability.

“The willingness of SPI member companies to contribute to the UMass Lowell Plastics Sustainability Research Lab is testament to the industry’s support of education and the future of the plastics manufacturing industry,” said William R. Carteaux, SPI president and CEO.

“Because of the lab, students who study at UMass Lowell, one of the nation’s top programs for plastics engineering students, will not only receive a world-class education in prime plastics, but will become versed in the technologies and processes related to recycled plastics. UMass Lowell’s effort to add the lab to its curriculum and research capabilities demonstrates that the university is truly ahead of the curve in plastics engineering education and sustainability,” Carteaux said. “I hope this success encourages other member companies to consider similar partnerships with our nations educational system.”

Robert Malloy, chairman of the UMass Lowell Plastics Engineering Department, echoed Carteaux’s statement adding that industry partnerships are critical to plastics engineering programs.

“As educators, we rely on industry to provide advice and guidance to help ensure that our program remains relevant and produces the necessary supply of trained plastics engineers. We could not do this effectively without the generous support of the plastics industry,” Malloy said.

So far, SPI members have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in state-of-the-art recycled materials handling and reprocessing equipment and instrumentation. The effort to secure the necessary equipment critical for plastics recycling is ongoing. Member companies interested in participating should contact David Palmer at 202-974-5527.

Jim Holbrook, president of the ACS Group, stated that although he is relatively new to the plastics industry, he is a strong proponent of recycling and sustainability. Holbrook said, “ACS Group is a leader in the auxiliaries market for plastics processing equipment and is very pleased to be able to donate five different pieces of equipment for the Sustainability Research Lab at UMass Lowell, both for the advancement of the state of the art in plastics recycling technology and for the training of the next generation of plastics industry leaders.”

In addition to the ACS Group, which donated $40,000 in equipment under its AEC, Cumberland, Sterling and Carver brands, other companies that donated equipment include Bay Plastics Machinery, Hi-Tech, Davis-Standard, Dynisco, Thermo Scientific.

"From resin suppliers and equipment makers to processors and brand owners, SPI is proud to represent all facets of the U.S. plastics industry," said William R. Carteaux, president and CEO, SPI. Our most recent economic reports show that the plastics industry as a whole is resilient, and has come through the recession significantly better than other U.S. manufacturing sectors."

After being displayed during NPE in the first-ever Zero Waste Zone, all equipment was shipped to UMass Lowell and will be installed for use after the lab renovations are complete. Those interested in sponsoring recycling research should contact Bob Malloy at UMass Lowell at 978-934-3435.

For more information, visit: www.uml.edu/Engineering/Plastics/default.aspx

Published in SPI

A new type of graphene aerogel will make for better energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis and separations.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. The research appears in the April 22 edition of the journal, Nature Communications.

The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness and exhibit supercompressibility (up to 90 percent compressive strain). In addition, the 3D printed graphene aerogel microlattices show an order of magnitude improvement over bulk graphene materials and much better mass transport.

Aerogel is a synthetic porous, ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. It is often referred to as “liquid smoke.”

Previous attempts at creating bulk graphene aerogels produced a largely random pore structure, excluding the ability to tailor transport and other mechanical properties of the material for specific applications such as separations, flow batteries and pressure sensors.

“Making graphene aerogels with tailored macro-architectures for specific applications with a controllable and scalable assembly method remains a significant challenge that we were able to tackle,” said engineer Marcus Worsley, a co-author of the paper. “3D printing allows one to intelligently design the pore structure of the aerogel, permitting control over mass transport (aerogels typically require high pressure gradients to drive mass transport through them due to small, tortuous pore structure) and optimization of physical properties, such as stiffness. This development should open up the design space for using aerogels in novel and creative applications.”

During the process, the graphene oxide (GO) inks are prepared by combining an aqueous GO suspension and silica filler to form a homogenous, highly viscous ink. These GO inks are then loaded into a syringe barrel and extruded through a micronozzle to pattern 3D structures.

“Adapting the 3D printing technique to aerogels makes it possible to fabricate countless complex aerogel architectures for applications such as mechanical properties and compressibility, which has never been achieved before, ” said engineer Cheng Zhu, the other co-author of the journal article.

Other Livermore researchers include Yong-Jin Han, Eric Duoss, Alexandra Golobic, Joshua Kuntz and Christopher Spadaccini. The work is funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program.

For more information, visit: www.llnl.gov

Published in LLNL

NASA has established a public-private partnership with five organizations to advance knowledge about composite materials that could improve the performance of future aircraft.

Composites are innovative materials for building aircraft that can enhance strength while remaining lightweight. The agency selected the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in Hampton, Virginia, to manage administration of the Advanced Composites Consortium, which is working to improve composite materials research and certification.

Included in the consortium are NASA's Advanced Composites Project, managed from the agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); General Electric Aviation, Cincinnati; Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, Palmdale, California; Boeing Research & Technology, St. Louis; a team from United Technologies Corporation led by subsidiary Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Connecticut; and the NIA.

"NASA is committed to transforming aviation through cutting edge research and development," said Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington. "This partnership will help bring better composite materials into use more quickly, and help maintain American leadership in aviation manufacturing."

The NIA will handle communications within the consortium and help manage the programmatic and financial aspects of members' research projects. The NIA will also serve as a "tier two" member with a representative on the consortium's technical oversight committee.

NASA formed the consortium in support of the Advanced Composites Project, which is part of the Advanced Air Vehicles Program in the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. The project's goal is to reduce product development and certification timelines by 30 percent for composites infused into aeronautics applications.

A panel of NASA, FAA and Air Force Research Laboratory experts reviewed 20 submissions and chose the members based on their technical expertise, willingness and ability to share in costs, certification experience with government agencies, and their focused technology areas and partnership histories.

Representatives from each organization in the consortium participated in technology goal planning discussions, assembled cooperative research teams, and developed draft plans for projects in three areas: prediction of life and strength of composite structures; rapid inspection of composites; and manufacturing process and simulation.

For more information, visit: www.nianet.org

Published in NASA

New research conducted by the element14 Community, an online community of more than 300,000 electronics engineers, has revealed high consumer interest worldwide in the Internet of Things (IoT) and a huge potential value to developing economies.

The study, conducted as part of element14’s mantra, “Engineering a Connected World,” included more than 3,500 people in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. When asked if it would be beneficial to connect more devices and appliances to the internet, 43 percent agreed. However, the research highlights a notable thirst for increased internet connectivity in developing economies, hinting that IoT has the potential to continue the trend for increased access to the internet in developing economies that mobile has created.

On average, 31 percent of consumers in Australia, France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. agree that the more devices in their home that connect to the internet, the better. This figure more than doubles to 71 percent for consumers in both China and India, newly industrialized countries with lower percentages of population with internet connectivity (according to World Bank data).

The research findings give new credence to the launch of the latest Design Challenge from the element14 Community, Enchanted Objects. As part of the challenge, Community members across the world are encouraged to re-imagine everyday objects using embedded Internet of Things technology.

Other findings from the study include:

• Respondents in China and India are also more likely to agree with the statement “The more of the world that is connected to the internet, the better,” indicating that desire for connectivity extends beyond their homes. On this statement, 73 percent and 86 percent concurred for each country respectively, compared to just a 55 percent average across Australia, France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.

• People in China and India are much more open to wearing a connected device such as a smartwatch or smartglasses, with 66 percent and 63 percent agreeing, compared to 26 percent on average in the other countries surveyed.

• In the U.S., more than two-thirds (68 percent) are concerned about notification overload as an effect of connected devices, highlighting the need for intelligent automation and minimal interaction in IoT technology.

• With regards to the privacy implications of IoT, France was revealed to be the most concerned nation with 81 percent agreeing this was an issue for them. The average number was only marginally lower (77 percent), showing IoT technologies must be transparent and address privacy concerns.

• Aside from India and China (which were 59 percent and 63 percent respectively), Brits and Germans are the most gadget-obsessed nations, with 50 percent of both agreeing that they cannot live without their gadgets and technology.

The Enchanted Objects Design Challenge will be judged by a panel of IoT experts. This includes Dr. John Barrett, Head of Academic Studies at the Nimbus Centre for Embedded Systems Research at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and Group Director of the Centre's Smart Systems Integration Research Group.

Barrett commented, “The IoT has immense potential, but individuals and companies also have very valid concerns about security and privacy in an interconnected IoT world. In Nimbus, security and privacy are an integral aspect of our research and application development, and worthwhile IoT devices need to reassure users they will get something they value in return for allowing their data to be collected. I’m very much looking forward to what participants in the Enchanted Objects Challenge produce.”

Dianne Kibbey, element14’s Global Head of Community, added “Everyone – from our component suppliers to manufacturers of consumer products - is talking about the Internet of Things because its potential and importance will be revolutionary. IoT offers so many opportunities for new functionality and capabilities outside of existing products, and many companies and product designers are being forced to rethink their traditional businesses. While some are struggling to realize and understand IoT’s significance, this research shows key geographies and applications where IoT has strong potential.”

“On the element14 Community, we’re ‘Engineering a Connected World,’ and the Enchanted Objects Design Challenge is about giving ordinary objects a new life – “enchanted” by the power of IoT. We’re excited to see what our members can imagine and deliver against this challenge.”

For more information about the challenge, visit: www.element14.com/community/community/design-challenges/enchanted-objects

Published in element14

3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) announced that it has been awarded two research contracts worth over $1 million dollars to develop advanced aerospace and defense 3D printing manufacturing capabilities at convincing scale. These contracts are administered by America Makes (the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) and funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The two contracts leverage 3DS’ proprietary Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Direct Metal 3D Printing (DMP) portfolio to meet the most demanding advanced manufacturing road map of the United States Air Force. Together with some of the nation’s leading military suppliers—including Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin—3D Systems will develop a precision closed loop and advanced manufacturing and monitoring platform, designed to deliver the accuracy, functionality and repeatability specifications demanded for flight worthy aerospace parts.

“The collaborative and forward looking initiative of America Makes members is driving extraordinary strides in 3D printing centric advanced manufacturing for this important industry,” commented Ralph Resnick, America Makes founding director and executive director. “America Makes is grateful for the support and funding from AFRL to enable important research like this.”

The first contract is led by 3DS, in partnership with the University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Manufacturing (UDCCM), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) and Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMCO). The project is designed to integrate predictive technologies with 3DS’ SLS 3D printers to dynamically monitor parts at the layer level during the manufacturing process, ensuring optimum accuracy and repeatability of manufactured aerospace parts.

The second contract, in collaboration with the Applied Research Laboratory of Pennsylvania State University in partnership with Honeywell International and Northrop Grumman Corporation, leverages 3DS’ Direct Metal 3D printing. As a result of this project, aerospace and defense manufacturers will gain full control of every aspect of the direct metal manufacturing process at the layer level, delivering fully dense, chemically pure, flight worthy metals parts.

“These important research projects will position leading industry manufacturers to 3D print high-performance precision parts at convincing scale with enhanced functionality,” said Neal Orringer, Vice President of Alliances & Partnerships, 3DS. “3D Systems pioneered the use of advanced manufacturing for aerospace and defense applications and is proud to work with such esteemed partners to further advance these technologies and meet and exceed the future demands of the Air Force.”

Both projects are set to commence in early 2015.

For more information, visit: www.3dsystems.com

Published in 3D Systems

The American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII) opened its new 100,000 square-foot innovation acceleration center in Detroit by exhibiting new technologies that use lightweight metals and announcing its new program name, LIFT — Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow.

The $148 million center will facilitate partnerships among major research institutions and manufacturers to accelerate the transfer of new manufacturing technology from the research lab to the production floor. It will work with such lightweight metals as aluminum, magnesium, titanium and advanced high-strength steel alloys and focus on new technologies to cast, heat treat, form/shape, join and coat them. This activity will build upon the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) and Advanced Manufacturing Partnership to capitalize on recent breakthroughs in materials modeling, theory, and data mining to significantly hasten discovery and deployment of advanced materials while decreasing their cost.

ALMMII is a non-profit organization founded by three partners, The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and EWI, an independent research and development organization based in Columbus, Ohio. It was selected last year to operate LM3I, the Lightweight and Modern Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, one of five institutes set up by the U.S. government to maintain America’s manufacturing leadership. Known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, each institute has a particular focus. While LIFT accelerates technologies using lightweight metals, others will advance technologies in power generation, digital manufacturing, additive manufacturing, photonics, and advanced composites.

“This is an important day for the future of American manufacturing jobs and the security of our country,” said Executive Director Lawrence Brown. “Taking weight out of vehicles that move people and goods and carry out military missions is a national imperative, because as we succeed, we will be saving energy, saving money, and creating jobs.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that with its history of manufacturing innovation and available workforce, Detroit was the perfect fit for LIFT.

“What you see here is not just about advancing technology, it’s about advancing people,” said Mayor Duggan. “The education and training collaborations will help prepare Detroiters for employment opportunities to design, build and repair the next generation of lightweight vehicles.”

Chief Technical Officer Alan Taub said that LIFT is an ideal public/private partnership. “Our industry partners, with input from government agencies, will set the priorities of our effort,” Taub said. We will create collaborations to focus on the opportunities manufacturing companies identify to take breakthroughs from the best research institutions around the country and commercialize them as certified, production-level processes. Our work will cross-fertilize developments in several industries — including defense and commercial applications in aerospace, automotive, marine and railroad.”

Education and Workforce Director Emily Stover DeRocco said, “You can’t sustain new processes and materials without the necessary talent, so a critical part of our effort will be preparing an educated and skilled workforce, confident in using new lightweighting technologies and processes. Our location along the I-75 Industrial corridor serves five states with the nation’s highest concentration of metal manufacturing, and we expect to be generating new opportunities throughout the region.”

Michigan is the perfect location for LIFT, said Paula Sorrell, Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Venture Capital for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

“Michigan already has the world’s highest concentration of automotive research and development facilities, so it is a terrific location for this collaborative enterprise,” Sorrell said. “We know we will have to work together as government, research institutions and private companies to grow our manufacturing base, and LIFT will be an important part of that effort.”

“The partnerships coming out of LIFT and the other institutes will have a significant impact across many industries,” said Andre Gudger, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, Department of Defense. “LIFT will make a difference because it will be working closely with a world-class network of academic and other research institutions and industry-leading companies in transportation and defense — along with smaller companies that are developing exciting new processes to work with lightweight metals. This cutting edge technology will help develop the kind of vehicles and equipment we need to ensure our military maintains its fighting edge over our adversaries today and in the future.”

Industry partners that provided exhibits for the ribbon-cutting included: American Bureau of Shipping, Alcoa, American Foundry Society, Boeing, Comau, DNV, Eaton, Flash Bainite, GREDE, Johnson Controls, Materion, Metalsa, QuesTek, TARDEC, and Tenneco.
About LIFT

LIFT is operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII) and was selected through a competitive process led by the US Department of Defense under the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I) solicitation issued by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research. LIFT is one of the founding institutes in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a federal initiative to create regional hubs to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies.

For more information, visit: www.lift.technology

Published in LIFT

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute is proud to announce the awardees of three Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) funded Special Topic Project Calls. Driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes will award more than $2.12 million in AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Technology Division funding toward these projects with $998K in matching cost share from the awarded project teams for total funding worth $3.12 million.

According to Ed Morris, America Makes Director and NCDMM Vice President, “The need to issue Special Topic Project Calls was identified during the development of our strategic technology investment plan, the America Makes Additive Manufacturing Technology Roadmap, which aligns industry needs and sets investment priorities. America Makes is grateful to the AFRL team for their funding and support in enabling the America Makers member community to pursue these research and development projects. Currently, with the addition of these three Special Topic Project Calls to the projects underway from our first and second Project Calls, America Makes will soon have a portfolio worth more than $48 million in public and private funds invested in advancing the state-of-the-art in additive manufacturing (AM) in the United States.”

The three Special Topic Project Calls focus on areas of particular interest to AFRL, including closed-loop process control, open source protocol, and non-destructive evaluation (NDE) of complex structures.

“The submitted proposals from the America Makes member community for the Special Topic Project Calls were well-thought-out and addressed the topics and focus areas in depth, exploring some exciting methodologies,” said John Wilczynski, America Makes Deputy Director of Technology Development. “The America Makes review team spent a great deal of time and engaged in much discussion during the down-select process to determine the final five awardees.”

Subject to the finalization of all contractual details and requirements, the selected America Makes Special Topic Project Call Awardees are as follows:

Special Topic – Powder Bed Fusion of Thermoplastics Closed-Loop Process Control

Awardee #1: 3D Systems
Led by 3D Systems, in partnership with the University of Delaware – Center for Composite Manufacturing (UD-CCM), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), and Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMCO), this project will strive to enable the broader adoption of thermoplastic powder bed fusion in the manufacturing process by including a predictive modeling scheme into a closed-loop hardware/software integrated engineered system to control key process parameters in-situ and solve inherent processing challenges. UD-CCM’s predictive model based solution will build upon and integrate SNL’s materials nanoscale simulation capabilities. 3D Systems, leveraging Lockheed Martin and Sandia’s process sensor selection knowledge and AM systems integration experience, will instrument a 3D Systems’ SLS (selective laser sintering) production machine to successfully demonstrate feasibility and a transition path to commercializing this approach.

Awardee #2: University of Texas – Austin
Led by the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership Harvest/Stratasys, this project will address the need to rapidly advance the use of closed-loop process control for powder bed fusion (PBF) of thermoplastics. The project aims to take this AM technology to a level where very repeatable and certifiable process results can be obtained through the demonstration of feedback control in PBF for improved part quality and performance predictability, while reducing sensitivity to variations in build conditions across different machines and even within a single build process. UT Austin invented the PBF process and, more recently, designed and fabricated a high temperature test-bed for PBF with feedback control as a central part of its architecture. Harvest/Stratasys is one of the largest thermoplastic PBF service bureaus and is at the forefront of production level quality control for polymer AM.

Special Topic – Open Source Process Control for Powder Bed Additive Manufacturing Research

Awardee #1: GE Global Research
Led by GE Global Research, in partnership with GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center (ADC), and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), this project will develop, document, and demonstrate open-source protocols and machine controllers for powder bed fusion additive manufacturing (PBFAM) on commercial and custom-made metal additive machines. Central to this effort are two new protocols that will be developed with input from the open-source PBFAM community: a LAYER Protocol and a SCAN Protocol. The decision to adopt separate LAYER and SCAN protocols is a strategic endeavor to gain fast international acceptance because both protocols will be simple, scalable, comprehensive, extensible, and independent of PBFAM machine type. To accelerate development, the team will leverage existing open-source layering software in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Once the protocols are established, three open-source programs will be developed to demonstrate fabrication of parts from STL files.

Awardee #2: Pennsylvania State University
Led by the Pennsylvania State University, in partnership with Honeywell International Inc., Northrop Grumman Corporation, and 3D Systems, Inc., this project will develop and demonstrate an open, layered protocol for PBFAM. The proposed layered, open protocol will define a set of communication constructs used within a cyber-physical system. Each layer of the proposed protocol will define an aspect of the data and communication constructs required to define and execute a powder bed deposition process. It will also enable specification and extraction of scan path and process data and communication between a PBFAM system and other heterogeneous systems. The proposed efforts will leverage ongoing programs at the Center for Innovative Materials Processing though Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D) at Penn State. Through the collaboration with 3D Systems, Honeywell, and Northrop Grumman, the protocol will be developed and then implemented and demonstrated at CIMP-3D on a commercial 3D Systems PBFAM machine. Access to the open protocol will allow researchers access to critical data for modeling, sensing, control, and process optimization and enable industry to enhance qualification and certification efforts, as well as more-efficiently innovate PBFAM process and materials development.

Special Topic – Non-Destructive Evaluation of Complex Metallic Additive Manufactured Structures

Awardee: EWI
Led by EWI, this project will pursue the application of established non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques in the inspection of AM components made from titanium and nickel-based alloys and those components fabricated using two AM processes, Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM). With input from industry, a matrix of planar and volumetric flaws and internal nonconformities will be prepared for implantation into the selected AM components. The study will also involve qualification of DMLM and EBM processes to fabricate imbedded planar and volumetric flaws with predetermined type, location and dimensions. Up to 128 coupons with artificial and AM flaws will be manufactured and tested to qualify the flaw fabrication specifications and procedures. Among various NDE modalities, X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) was selected and will be performed to examine the specimens and components with representative AM flaws and conditions. The design and optimization of AM flaw matrix in selected components will be aided by computer modeling and simulation of X-ray CT performance indicating possibly the worst and the best inspection scenarios.

“I want to congratulate the America Makes community and our Special Topic Project Call awardees, as well as recognize the AFRL team for their support and funding,” said America Makes Founding Director and NCDMM President and Executive Director Ralph Resnick. “Through the collaborative efforts of the America Makes member community, we are making extraordinary strides in advancing AM and 3DP technologies.”

The anticipated start date of the Special Topic Projects is early 2015.

For more information, visit: www.americamakes.us

Published in America Makes

In the past, selective laser melting (SLM) technology has been cost effective only for manufacturing components with relatively small volumes. In an innovative breakthrough that combines SLM with casting, now the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT has developed a cost-effective method for manufacturing solid, large-volume components using SLM.

Injection molding is used to make the majority of plastic components. With additive manufacturing techniques such as SLM, it is possible to integrate complex conformal cooling channels into the tool inserts required for injection molding. These channels allow the tool mold to be heated up during the injection process, and the melt to cool down quickly and evenly – resulting in rapid, distortion-free manufacturing. However, the manufacture of large-volume tool inserts using SLM is very cost-intensive, because the main production costs are volume-dependent.

To tackle this problem, scientists from Fraunhofer ILT have teamed up with the Foundry Institute at RWTH Aachen University and partners from industry in a bid to combine SLM and casting methods. In the “GenCast” project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the Central Innovation Program SME (or “ZIM” in German), the project partners have worked together to build up the requisite process understanding and developed the process chain for the combined method.

The idea behind combining the two methods is to manufacture the shell of the tool insert from hot work steels (1.2343 or 1.2709) using SLM. During this process, cooling channels with complex geometries are still integrated in the exact places where they are needed to heat or cool the component. The shell built up using this technique serves as a casting mold, which is rapidly and cost-effectively filled with gray cast iron (e.g. GJL-200) or highly thermal conductive copper in a subsequent casting process. This cuts production times by up to 80% compared to components made using SLM alone. The bigger a component is, the more the advantages of this combined method come into play. It can be used cost-effectively from part sizes of only half a liter upward.

For more information, visit: ilt.fraunhofer.de

Published in Fraunhofer

From disaster recovery to caring for the elderly in the home, scientists and engineers are developing robots that can handle critical tasks in close proximity to humans, safely and with greater resilience than previous generations of intelligent machines.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA announced $31.5 million in new awards to spur the development and use of co-robots that work cooperatively with people.

The awards mark the third round of funding made through the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), a multi-agency program launched in September 2012 as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Initiative, with NSF as the lead federal agency.

"Robots and robotic systems have the potential to augment human abilities, improve our quality of life and perform dangerous tasks unsuitable for people," said Suzi Iacono, acting assistant director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at NSF. "Working with our federal partners in NRI has spurred new research directions that weren't previously possible without these collaborations."

The 52 new research awards, ranging from $300,000 to $1.8 million over one to four years, advance fundamental understanding of robotic sensing, motion, computer vision, machine learning and human-computer interaction. The awards include research to develop soft robots that are safer for human interaction, determine how humans can lead teams of robots in recovery situations and design robots that can check aging infrastructure and map remote geographic areas.

The NRI awards address the entire development cycle of robots, from fundamental research to deployments in critical environments, and will help make safe, helpful and affordable co-robots a reality.

"Our engineers and scientists are creating a world where robotic systems serve as trusted co-workers, co-inhabitants, co-explorers and co-defenders," said Pramod Khargonekar, assistant director of NSF's Engineering Directorate. "The National Robotics Initiative serves the national good by encouraging collaboration among academic, industry, non-profit and other organizations--and by speeding creation of fundamental science and engineering knowledge base used by researchers, applications developers and industry."

NSF's investments in robotics explore both the technical and engineering challenges of developing co-robots and the long-term social, behavioral and economic implications of co-robots across all areas of human activities. As part of the initiative, NSF also supports the development of new methods for the establishment and infusion of robotics in educational curricula.

Earlier this month, NRI announced its latest solicitation, which has been joined by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Department of Defense as new partners. The program expects to award up to $50 million in 2015.

For more information, visit: www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503641

Australian Research Council (ARC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Professor Aidan Byrne, has welcomed the launch of a new ARC Research Hub that will undertake research to establish Australia as a global leader in metal-based additive manufacturing in Australia.

The ARC Research Hub for Transforming Australia’s Manufacturing Industry through High Value Additive Manufacturing was officially opened today at Monash University. The Research Hub has been awarded $4 million over five years from the ARC through the Industrial Transformation Research Program.

Professor Byrne said the new Research Hub would focus on new additive manufacturing technology—also known as 3D printing—that can build components from metal alloy powders or wires by selective laser or electron beam melting.

“This technology makes it possible to produce components from computer design files without the need for tooling. This can lead to components being made more efficiently, cost and time-wise, while achieving equivalent or better performance,” said Professor Byrne.

“Technological advances in additive manufacturing also bring significant environmental benefits, allowing the creation of more light-weight products which require reduced energy to produce, and a significant reduction in material waste.

“This Research Hub will increase the awareness and uptake of metal-based additive manufacturing in Australia. It aims to establish Australia as a global leader in knowledge of additive manufacturing for metal components, with application in industries such as aerospace, automotive, biomedical, space and defence.”

The Research Hub will work collaboratively with partners including: Deakin University; The University of Queensland; Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation; Metallica Minerals Limited; Safran-Microturbo SAS; A.W. Bell; Amaero Engineering Pty Ltd; Chassis Brakes International (Australia) Pty Ltd; International Seal Company Australia Pty Ltd; and Kinetic Engineering Services Pty Ltd.

For more information, visit: www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/itrp/itrp_default.htm

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed an efficient method to measure residual stress in metal parts produced by powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing.

This 3D printing process produces metal parts layer by layer using a high-energy laser beam to fuse metal powder particles. When each layer is complete, the build platform moves downward by the thickness of one layer, and a new powder layer is spread on the previous layer.

While this process is able to produce quality parts and components, residual stress is a major problem during the fabrication process. That’s because large temperature changes near the last melt spot -- rapid heating and cooling -- and the repetition of this process result in localized expansion and contraction, factors that cause residual stress.

Aside from their potential impact on mechanical performance and structural integrity, residual stress may cause distortions during processing resulting in a loss of net shape, detachment from support structures and, potentially, the failure of additively manufactured (AM) parts and components.

An LLNL research team, led by engineer Amanda Wu, has developed an accurate residual stress measurement method that combines traditional stress-relieving methods (destructive analysis) with modern technology: digital image correlation (DIC). This process is able to provide fast and accurate measurements of surface-level residual stresses in AM parts.

The team used DIC to produce a set of quantified residual stress data for AM, exploring laser parameters. DIC is a cost-effective, image analysis method in which a dual camera setup is used to photograph an AM part once before it’s removed from the build plate for analysis and once after. The part is imaged, removed and then re-imaged to measure the external residual stress.

In a part with no residual stresses, the two sections should fit together perfectly and no surface distortion will occur. In AM parts, residual stresses cause the parts to distort close to the cut interface. The deformation is measured by digitally comparing images of the parts or components before and after removal. A black and white speckle pattern is applied to the AM parts so that the images can be fed into a software program that produces digital illustrations of high to low distortion areas on the part’s surface.

In order to validate their results from DIC, the team collaborated with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to perform residual stress tests using a method known as neutron diffraction (ND). This technique, performed by LANL researcher Donald Brown, measures residual stresses deep within a material by detecting the diffraction of an incident neutron beam. The diffracted beam of neutrons enables the detection of changes in atomic lattice spacing due to stress.

Although it’s highly accurate, ND is rarely used to measure residual stress because there are only three federal research labs in the U.S. -- LANL being one of them -- that have the high-energy neutron source required for this analysis.

The LLNL team’s DIC results were validated by the ND experiments, showing that DIC is a reliable way to measure residual stress in powder-bed fusion AM parts.

Their findings were the first to provide quantitative data showing internal residual stress distributions in AM parts as a function of laser power and speed. The team demonstrated that reducing the laser scan vector length instead of using a continuous laser scan regulates temperature changes during processing to reduce residual stress. Furthermore, the results show that rotating the laser scan vector relative to the AM part’s largest dimension also helps reduce residual stress. The team’s results confirm qualitative data from other researchers that reached the same conclusion.

By using DIC, the team was able to produce reliable quantitative data that will enable AM researchers to optimally calibrate process parameters to reduce residual stress during fabrication. Laser settings (power and speed) and scanning parameters (pattern, orientation angle and overlaps) can be adjusted to produce more reliable parts. Furthermore, DIC allowed the Lawrence Livermore team to evaluate the coupled effects of laser power and speed, and to observe a potentially beneficial effect of subsurface layer heating on residual stress development.

“We took time to do a systematic study of residual stresses that allowed us to measure things that were not quantified before,” Wu said. “Being able to calibrate our AM parameters for residual stress minimization is critical.”

LLNL’s findings eventually will be used to help qualify properties of metal parts built using the powder-bed fusion AM process. The team’s research helps build on other qualification processes designed at LLNL to improve quality and performance of 3D printed parts and components.

Wu and her colleagues are part of LLNL’s Accelerated Certification of Additively Manufactured Metals (ACAMM) Strategic Initiative. The other members of the Lawrence Livermore team include Wayne King, Gilbert Gallegos and Mukul Kumar.

The team’s results were reported in an article titled “An Experimental Investigation Into Additive Manufacturing-Induced Residual Stresses in 316L Stainless Steel” that was recently published in the journal, Metallurgical and Materials Transactions.

For more information, visit: acamm.llnl.gov

Published in LLNL

New software which offers scientists and researchers an easy way to analyse, model and visualise scientific datasets has been released by CSIRO. The free software, known as Workspace, is purpose-built for scientific applications and allows researchers to present their findings through stunning visualisations. Developed over the past eight years at CSIRO, Workspace has already been used for a wide range of projects, including natural disaster modelling, human movement and industrial and agricultural research.

One CSIRO team has already used the software to model and visualise simulations for storm surges and flash flooding, helping with disaster management planning. Working with the Australian Institute of Sport, another team has produced a 3D biomechanical computer model of different swimming strokes, allowing athletes to adjust their technique for maximum performance. Dr John Taylor from CSIRO's Digital Productivity Flagship said the software offered huge efficiency savings for researchers from all fields who work with datasets and complex analysis, freeing them up to spend more time focused on their scientific expertise.

"In institutions all around the world, researchers operate within similar workflows; sourcing data, analysing it, processing it - often using high-performance computing environments. Very often, this involves a number of manual repetitive steps. Workspace makes these steps easy to automate. In one application, analysis that had previously taken two weeks to conduct manually was carried out in less than an hour. Scientists also need to publish the outcomes of their research. Workspace allows them to easily release the software and analysis that backs up their findings."

According to Dr Taylor, another advantage of Workspace is that users don't need advanced programming skills and it runs on many different platforms and environments. "At the moment, scientists often have to write their own purpose-built code from scratch - even when this is not their primary skill set. This approach is inefficient, prone to error, difficult to reproduce by other scientists and unsuitable to take into the commercial world. Workspace can be used by non-software experts, allowing scientists from all over the globe to use the same platform and collaborate seamlessly on projects."

As well as these benefits, Workspace's data visualisations can help scientists make their research more understandable and accessible. "If others can easily grasp what your science means, this opens it up to brand new audiences. This not only helps researchers engage with the public, but it also allows them to reach out to other collaborators in the science community and industry."

Workspace has already been used successfully by scientists at University College London, and locally by research institutions including the Australian National University, Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales.

Workspace is being launched today at the 2014 eResearch Australasia Conference. It is free to download for research purposes and can be licensed for commercial applications.

For more information, visit: www.csiro.au/workspace

Published in CSIRO

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated an additive manufacturing method to control the structure and properties of metal components with precision unmatched by conventional manufacturing processes.

Ryan Dehoff, staff scientist and metal additive manufacturing lead at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, presented the research this week in an invited presentation at the Materials Science & Technology 2014 conference in Pittsburgh.

“We can now control local material properties, which will change the future of how we engineer metallic components,” Dehoff said. “This new manufacturing method takes us from reactive design to proactive design. It will help us make parts that are stronger, lighter and function better for more energy-efficient transportation and energy production applications such as cars and wind turbines.”

The researchers demonstrated the method using an ARCAM electron beam melting system (EBM), in which successive layers of a metal powder are fused together by an electron beam into a three-dimensional product. By manipulating the process to precisely manage the solidification on a microscopic scale, the researchers demonstrated 3-dimensional control of the microstructure, or crystallographic texture, of a nickel-based part during formation.

Crystallographic texture plays an important role in determining a material’s physical and mechanical properties.  Applications from microelectronics to high-temperature jet engine components rely on tailoring of crystallographic texture to achieve desired performance characteristics.

“We’re using well established metallurgical phenomena, but we’ve never been able to control the processes well enough to take advantage of them at this scale and at this level of detail,” said Suresh Babu, the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor's Chair for Advanced Manufacturing. “As a result of our work, designers can now specify location specific crystal structure orientations in a part.”

Other contributors to the research are ORNL’s Mike Kirka and Hassina Bilheux, University of California Berkeley’s Anton Tremsin, and Texas A&M University’s William Sames.

The research was supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Office in DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

For more information, visit: www.ornl.gov/user-facilities/mdf

Published in ORNL

A team of researchers at Louisiana Tech University has developed an innovative method for using affordable, consumer-grade 3D printers and materials to fabricate custom medical implants that can contain antibacterial and chemotherapeutic compounds for targeted drug delivery.

The team comprised of doctoral students and research faculty from Louisiana Tech's biomedical engineering and nanosystems engineering programs collaborated to create filament extruders that can make medical-quality 3D printing filaments. Creating these filaments, which have specialized properties for drug delivery, is a new concept that can result in smart drug delivering medical implants or catheters.

"After identifying the usefulness of the 3D printers, we realized there was an opportunity for rapid prototyping using this fabrication method," said Jeffery Weisman, a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech's biomedical engineering program. "Through the addition of nanoparticles and/or other additives, this technology becomes much more viable using a common 3D printing material that is already biocompatible. The material can be loaded with antibiotics or other medicinal compounds, and the implant can be naturally broken down by the body over time."

According to Weisman, personalized medicine and patient specific medication regiments is a current trend in healthcare. He says this new method of creating medically compatible 3D printing filaments will offer hospital pharmacists and physicians a novel way to deliver drugs and treat illness.

"One of the greatest benefits of this technology is that it can be done using any consumer printer and can be used anywhere in the world," Weisman said.

Weisman, who works out of a lab directed by Dr. David K. Mills, professor of biological sciences and biomedical engineering, partnered with Connor Nicholson, a doctoral candidate in nanosystems engineering and member of a lab operated by Dr. Chester Wilson, associate professor of electrical and nanosystems engineering, to develop the technology in collaboration with Mills. The group also worked with Extrusionbot, LLC of Phoenix, Arizona, who provided important materials support throughout the development and testing process.

"We had been working on several applications of 3D printing," said Mills. "Several students in my lab including Jeff and Connor, who was a guest researcher from Dr. Wilson's lab, had been working with colleagues for some time. I sent an email to them and asked them the question, 'Do you think it would be possible to print antibiotic beads using some kind of PMMA or other absorbable material?'"

From that point, the technology evolved and has become a highly innovative approach to overcoming many of the limitations encountered in current drug delivery systems. Most of today's antibiotic implants, or "beads," are made out of bone cements which have to be hand-mixed by a surgeon during a surgical procedure and contain toxic carcinogenic substances. These beads, which are actually a type of Plexiglas, do not break down in the body and require additional surgery for removal. Weisman and his team's custom 3D print filaments can be made of bioplastics which can be resorbed by the body to avoid the need for additional surgery.

The nature of the 3D printing process developed at Louisiana Tech allows for the creation of partially hollow beads that provide for a greater surface area and increased drug delivery and control. Localized treatment with the 3D printed antibiotic beads also avoids large systemic drug dosages that are toxic and can cause damage to a patient's liver and kidneys.

"Currently, embedding of additives in plastic requires industrial-scale facilities to ensure proper dispersion throughout the extruded plastic," explains Mills. "Our method enables dispersion on a tabletop scale, allowing researchers to easily customize additives to the desired levels. There are not even any industrial processes for antibiotics or special drug delivery as injection molding currently focuses more on colorants and cosmetic properties."

"It is truly novel and a worldwide first to be 3D printing custom devices with antibiotics and chemotherapeutics."

The team said the environment at Louisiana Tech played a large role in this project making the progress it has, in a relatively short period of time. "The project has been able to advance to this point because of the support of and easy access to interdisciplinary facilities and outstanding faculty such as Drs. Mills, Wilson and [Dr. Mark] DeCoster," said Weisman. "They and their labs have been crucial in taking cell culture and chemotherapeutic related aspects of this project to the next level"

"It is important to continue support of this research and to help bring Louisiana Tech to the forefront of rapid prototyping designs that will have impacts on a national scale."

For more information, visit: www.latech.edu

Continuing to advance his JOBS 1st PA initiative, Governor Tom Corbett announced the award of a Discovered in PA – Developed in PA grant to Carnegie Mellon University and Lehigh University to support the Research for Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania program, created to engage in specific innovation projects with Pennsylvania manufacturers.

"Pennsylvania is known for making products for the world, and to remain competitive, we must ensure our policies support the technology and innovation of the 21st century," said Corbett. "By supporting this collaborative initiative, we will tap the best and brightest from two of Pennsylvania's many prestigious universities to help our manufacturers remain leaders in the global economy."

The Research for Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania program (RAMP) will operate as a competitive funding program that will provide small incentive grants to faculty-led teams at both Carnegie Mellon University and Lehigh University to engage in specific, short-term innovation projects with a Pennsylvania manufacturing company to rapidly develop and transfer innovative technologies to help Pennsylvania manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will receive a $1 million grant from the Discovered in PA—Developed in PA (D2PA) program to support the partnership between CMU and Lehigh's research on additive manufacturing also knows as 3-D printing. The use and deployment of this technology will support the efficiency and competitiveness of manufacturers within the commonwealth.

The governor was joined for the visit by America Makes, Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh Universities at 3D Systems, one of the largest 3D printing manufacturers and a partner on this project.

"Pennsylvania has taken a clear leadership role by actively advancing additive manufacturing in the commonwealth demonstrated by its investment to America Makes through the states Research for Additive Manufacturing in Pennsylvania (RAMP) initiative," said Jim Williams, VP of Aerospace and Defense, 3D Systems. "These programs, supported by Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett, America Makes, Pennsylvania's universities and 3D Systems, will advance 3D printing manufacturing technology, to become pervasive in industry which will lead to increased jobs assuring our national security."

Today's announcement will support at least 10 projects that include the fabrication of medical instrumentation for knee and hip replacement and complex additive processing parameters with various materials.

RAMP provides technical and economic benefits to the state's small, medium and large-sized manufacturing companies by enabling knowledge transfer, the discovery of new technologies and retention of highly-skilled students.

"Through investments made with our students and manufacturers, we will ensure that our students are provided with high-quality educational programs that will help them secure good paying jobs upon graduation," Corbett said.

A $1 million grant to Lehigh University from America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute and private industry contributions, has also been provided in matching dollars to fund the project.

"Additive manufacturing shrinks the distance between what we can imagine and what we can make," said Alan J. Snyder, Ph.D., Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies, Lehigh University. "The RAMP program provides a proven means of doing what needs to be done to capitalize on the potential of additive manufacturing, in what will be a fast-moving and hotly competitive environment: connecting university research and talent development with Pennsylvania companies that can deliver new products and capabilities to customers."

"The advanced manufacturing R&D enabled by the RAMP 2 program will create a strong collaborative environment to make Pennsylvania companies more competitive in the nation and in the global marketplace," said Burak Ozdoganlar, Ph.D., RAMP Co-Director, Director of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, Carnegie Mellon University. "Manufacturing competitiveness is vital to retaining and increasing high-technology jobs in Pennsylvania, as well as retaining our best and brightest students in the state."

Additive technology employs computer design and computer-driven machinery to build complex parts and devices in microscopic layers, using plastics or powdered metals. The technology makes it possible to create shapes and designs previously impossible through traditional manufacturing methods.

D2PA was established by Corbett in 2011 to build capacity to support Pennsylvania businesses and to spur creativity and innovation in the provision of economic development services. Last fiscal year, the D2PA program supported initiatives tied to growing the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, business incubators, and education, workforce and economic opportunity collaborations

For more information, visit: www.ices.cmu.edu/ramp/home.asp

Army researchers are investigating ways to incorporate 3-D printing technology into producing food for Soldiers.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center's, or NSRDEC's, Lauren Oleksyk is a food technologist investigating 3-D applications for food processing and product development. She leads a research team within the Combat Feeding Directorate, referred to as CFD.

"The mission of CFD's Food Processing, Engineering and Technology team is to advance novel food technologies," Oleksyk said. "The technologies may or may not originate at NSRDEC, but we will advance them as needed to make them suitable for military field feeding needs. We will do what we can to make them suitable for both military and commercial applications."

On a recent visit to the nearby the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, NSRDEC food technologist Mary Scerra met with experts to discuss the feasibility and applications of using 3-D printing to produce innovative military rations.

"It could reduce costs because it could eventually be used to print food on demand," Scerra said. "For example, you would like a sandwich, where I would like ravioli. You would print what you want and eliminate wasted food."

"Printing of food is definitely a burgeoning science," Oleksyk said. "It's currently being done with limited application. People are 3-D printing food. In the confectionery industry, they are printing candies and chocolates. Some companies are actually considering 3-D printing meat or meat alternatives based on plant products that contain the protein found in meat."

A printer is connected to software that allows a design to be built in layers. To print a candy bar, there are cartridges filled with ingredients that will be deposited layer upon layer. The printer switches the cartridges as needed as the layers build.

"This is being done already," Oleksyk said. "This is happening now."

"It is revolutionary to bring 3-D printing into the food engineering arena," Oleksyk said. "To see in just a couple of years how quickly it is advancing, I think it is just going to keep getting bigger and bigger in terms of its application potential."

Oleksyk believes her team is the first to investigate how 3-D printing of food could be used to meet Soldiers' needs. The technology could be applied to the battlefield for meals on demand, or for food manufacturing, where food could be 3-D printed and perhaps processed further to become shelf stable. Then, these foods could be included in rations.

"We have a three-year shelf-life requirement for the MRE [Meal Ready-to-Eat]," Oleksyk said. "We're interested in maybe printing food that is tailored to a Soldier's nutritional needs and then applying another novel process to render it shelf stable, if needed."

Oleksyk said they are looking at ultrasonic agglomeration, which produces compact, small snack-type items. Combining 3-D printing with this process could yield a nutrient-dense, shelf-stable product.

"Another potential application may be 3-D printing a pizza, baking it, packaging it and putting it in a ration," she said.

Currently, most 3-D printed foods consist of a paste that comes out of a printer and is formed into predetermined shapes. The shapes are eaten as is or cooked.

Army food technologists hope to further develop 3-D printing technologies to create nutrient-rich foods that can be consumed in a warfighter-specific environment, on or near the battlefield.

Nutritional requirements could be sent to a 3-D food printer so meals can be printed with the proper amount of vitamins and minerals, thus meeting the individual dietary needs of the Warfighter.

"If you are lacking in a nutrient, you could add that nutrient. If you were lacking protein, you could add meat to a pizza," Oleksyk said.

Scerra said individual needs could be addressed based on the operational environment.

"Say you were on a difficult mission and you expended different nutrients...a printer could print according to what your needs were at that time," Scerra said.

In the future, making something from scratch may have a completely different meaning.

"We are thinking as troops move forward, we could provide a process or a compact printer that would allow Soldiers to print food on demand using ingredients that are provided to them, or even that they could forage for," Oleksyk said. "This is looking far into the future."

Oleksyk, who was skeptical when she first heard that 3-D printers could be used to engineer food, now marvels at the possibilities.

"I've been here long enough to see some of these 'no ways' become a reality. Anything is possible," Oleksyk said.

This article appears in the July/August issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on 3-D printing. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.

The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

For more information, visit: usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/e2/c/downloads/354586.pdf

Published in Army

Additive manufacturing is changing the way organizations design and manufacture products around the world. Here, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, are leading a collaborative effort to share knowledge and resources to promote this emerging technology.

Additive manufacturing, or AM, refers to a process by which digital 3-D design data is used to build up a component by depositing successive layers of liquid, powder, paper, or sheet material. Many have identified additive manufacturing as a potential game changer with important implications to national security and the federal government.

In May, leaders from AMRDEC and MSFC officially established an Additive Manufacturing Integrated Product Team. The IPT's mission is to engage in research and development efforts that advance the state of the art in AM to ensure that Team Redstone can capitalize on the rapid advancements in this technology.

Members of the IPT include, from AMRDEC, Dr. Amy Grover, Brian Harris, Keith Roberts, William Alvarez, Pete Black, and Patrick Olinger; and from MSFC, Niki Werkheiser, Ken Cooper, and Erin Betts.

"When you come to learn and appreciate the potential of AM, it's hard not to judge this as a true game-changer; one that will ultimately have far reaching, historical impacts onto our society at-large," said acting AMRDEC Director James Lackey.

AMRDEC is looking currently at trade studies investigating AM, to minimize cost and optimized performance of missile structures, using topology optimization routines to enhance design and analysis of AM built structures, and characterizing materials and processes for specific missile applications.

"Teaming with NASA MSFC and other partners, AMRDEC will investigate procurements of AM machines to support our research needs, build a cadre of engineers and scientists savvy on this technology, fabricate and performance test qualify components for ground and flight test," he said.

Dr. Dale Thomas, Marshall Center's associate director, technical, signed the IPT charter for NASA.

"Additive manufacturing is a step toward the future," he said. "It is changing the way organizations design and manufacture products around the world, and space is one of the key places where humanity will see the impact of this technology."

The agreement was facilitated by Phil Farrington, professor of industrial and systems engineering and engineering management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

"This effort continues a long tradition of collaboration between the AMRDEC and Marshall. This exciting new technology has the potential to radically change the way we manufacture aerospace and defense systems," said Farrington. "One of the team's goals is to identify additive manufacturing research and development needs of greatest importance to the defense and space community."

AMRDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

For more information, visit: www.amrdec.army.mil/amrdec

Published in Army

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded 19 advanced manufacturing technology planning grants totaling $9 million to new or existing industry-driven consortia to develop technology roadmaps aimed at strengthening U.S. manufacturing and innovation performance across industries.

The grants, awarded to universities and other nonprofit organizations, are the first conferred by NIST's new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program. They range from $378,900 to $540,000 for a period of up to two years.

The funded projects will identify and rank research and development goals, define workforce needs, and initiate other steps toward speeding technology development and transfer and improving manufacturing capabilities. Project collaborations span a wide variety of industries and technologies, from flexible-electronics manufacturing to biomanufacturing and from pulp-and-paper manufacturing to forming and joining technologies.

"The AMTech awards provide incentives for partnerships to tackle the important jobs of planning, setting strategic manufacturing technology goals, and developing a shared vision of how to work collaboratively to get there," said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "These are essential first steps toward building the research infrastructure necessary to sustain a healthy, innovative advanced manufacturing sector—one that invents, demonstrates, prototypes and produces here, in the U.S."

Technology roadmapping is a key component of all funded projects. Each consortium will engage manufacturers of all sizes, university researchers, trade associations and other stakeholders in an interactive process to identify and prioritize research projects that reduce shared barriers to the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

In conjunction with developing technology roadmaps, the projects will undertake related tasks such as defining challenges specific to building robust domestic supply chains and establishing skill-set requirements for an advanced manufacturing workforce.

Established in 2013, the AMTech program aims to catalyze partnerships between U.S. industry, academia, and government that will support efforts to meet the long-term research needs of U.S. industry. A specific objective is to enable new—or to strengthen existing—industry-led technology consortia for the purpose of identifying and prioritizing research projects that reduce barriers to the growth of advanced manufacturing.

On July 24, 2013, the program announced its inaugural competition for planning grants. It received 82 applications seeking a total of $37.4 million in funding. Of the 19 consortia that received grants, 11 are new efforts that will be launched with AMTech funding. Applications for these projects included letters of commitment from companies and other prospective partners.

For more information, visit: www.nist.gov/amo/fundedawards.cfm

Published in NIST

The Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Space Systems Advanced Technology Center (ATC) has opened a new state-of-the-art laboratories building that will enable the company to provide innovative technical solutions to customers with more agility and efficiency.

The Advanced Materials & Thermal Sciences Center, with 82,000 square feet of floor space, will house 130 engineers, scientists and staff. The new laboratories will host advanced research and development in emerging technology areas like 3-D printing, energetics, thermal sciences, nanotechnology, synthesis, high temperature materials and advanced devices.

“This magnificent new facility will be home to many of the innovative technologies that will help shape the future of space payloads, satellites and missile systems,” said Dr. Kenneth Washington, vice president of the ATC. “Scientists and engineers here are creating advanced materials like our CuantumFuse™ nano-copper, which promises to make more reliable electrical connections in space and other applications. We’re also perfecting technologies to manage the heat generated by on-board satellite sensors. Our new microcryocooler is the smallest satellite cooler ever developed, another example of the ground-breaking technologies we’re advancing in this lab.”

The new building was designed and constructed to achieve a Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices including sustainability; water efficiency; energy efficiency and atmospheric quality; use of materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and innovations in upgrades, operations and maintenance. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Building Rating System is a voluntary national standard for high-performance sustainable buildings.

“Our new Materials and Thermal Sciences Center is not just a home for innovation, it’s a shining example of the benefits of sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices,” said Marshall Case, vice president of Infrastructure Services at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “By replacing two other buildings that are each 50 years old with this new facility, we’ll save $1 million in annual maintenance costs, cut energy costs by more than 60 percent, and reduce our carbon footprint. This new facility is better for the environment, more affordable for our business and more versatile for our technologists.”

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 115,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.

For more information, visit: www.lockheedmartin.com

Published in Lockheed Martin

Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects — from cell phones to food containers and toys — using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. It also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees or competition with the food supply.

Most bioplastics are made from cellulose, a plant-based polysaccharide material. The Wyss Institute team developed its bioplastic from chitosan, a form of chitin, which is a powerful player in the world of natural polymers and the second most abundant organic material on Earth. Chitin is a long-chain polysaccharide that is responsible for the hardy shells of shrimps and other crustaceans, armor-like insect cuticles, tough fungal cell walls — and flexible butterfly wings.

The majority of available chitin in the world comes from discarded shrimp shells, and is either thrown away or used in fertilizers, cosmetics, or dietary supplements, for example. However, material engineers have not been able to fabricate complex three-dimensional (3D) shapes using chitin-based materials — until now.

The Wyss Institute team, led by Postdoctoral Fellow Javier Fernandez, Ph.D., and Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., developed a new way to process the material so that it can be used to fabricate large, 3D objects with complex shapes using traditional casting or injection molding manufacturing techniques. What's more, their chitosan bioplastic breaks down when returned to the environment within about two weeks, and it releases rich nutrients that efficiently support plant growth.

"There is an urgent need in many industries for sustainable materials that can be mass produced," Ingber said. Ingber is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Our scalable manufacturing method shows that chitosan, which is readily available and inexpensive, can serve as a viable bioplastic that could potentially be used instead of conventional plastics for numerous industrial applications."

The advance reflects the next iteration of a material called Shrilk that replicated the appearance and unique material properties of living insect cuticle, which the same team unveiled about two years ago in Advanced Materials. They called it Shrilk because it was composed of chitin from shrimp shells plus a protein from silk.

In this study, the team used the shrimp shells but ditched the silk in their quest to create an even cheaper, easier-to-make chitin-based bioplastic primed for widespread manufacturing.

It turns out the small stuff really mattered, Fernandez said. After subjecting chitosan to a battery of tests, he learned that the molecular geometry of chitosan is very sensitive to the method used to formulate it. The goal, therefore, was to fabricate the chitosan in a way that preserves the integrity of its natural molecular structure, thus maintaining its strong mechanical properties.

"Depending on the fabrication method, you either get a chitosan material that is brittle and opaque, and therefore not usable, or tough and transparent, which is what we were after," said Fernandez, who recently won the Bayer "Early Excellence in Science" Award for his achievements in materials science and engineering.

After fully characterizing in detail how factors like temperature and concentration affect the mechanical properties of chitosan on a molecular level, Fernandez and Ingber honed in on a method that produced a pliable liquid crystal material that was just right for use in large-scale manufacturing methods, such as casting and injection molding.

Significantly, they also found a way to combat the problem of shrinkage whereby the chitosan polymer fails to maintain its original shape after the injection molding process. Adding wood flour, a waste product from wood processing, did the trick.

"You can make virtually any 3D form with impressive precision from this type of chitosan," said Fernandez, who molded a series of chess pieces to illustrate the point. The material can also be modified for use in water and also easily dyed by changing the acidity of the chitosan solution.

This advance validates the potential of using bioinspired plastics for applications that require large-scale manufacturing, Fernandez explained. The next challenge is for the team to continue to refine their chitosan fabrication methods so that they can take them out of the laboratory, and move them into a commercial manufacturing facility with an industrial partner.

For more information, visit: wyss.harvard.edu

Published in Harvard

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with Cincinnati Incorporated, a manufacturer of high quality machine tools located in Harrison, Ohio, to develop a large-scale polymer additive manufacturing (3-D printing) system.

The partnership aims to accelerate the commercialization of a new additive manufacturing machine that can print large polymer parts faster and more cheaply than current technologies. The partnership agreement supports the Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to increase the efficiency of the U.S. manufacturing sector and ensure that innovative clean energy technologies continue to be developed in America.

Additive manufacturing, often called 3-D printing, can offer time, energy and cost savings over traditional manufacturing techniques in certain applications, but most 3-D polymer printers on the market today can only fabricate small prototype parts. By building a system that is 200 to 500 times faster and capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today’s common additive machines – in sizes greater than one cubic meter – the ORNL-CINCINNATI project could introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. tooling sector, which in turn supports a wide range of industries. Access to such technology could strengthen domestic manufacturing of highly advanced components for the automotive, aerospace, appliance, robotics and many other industries.

“The Energy Department and its national labs are forging partnerships with the private sector to strengthen advanced manufacturing, foster innovation, and create clean energy jobs for the growing middle class,” said David Danielson, the Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Developing innovative manufacturing technologies in America will help ensure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow are created here in the United States, putting people to work and building a clean energy economy.”

The cooperative research and development agreement was signed today at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) established at ORNL by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and funded through its Advanced Manufacturing Office. The MDF helps industry develop, demonstrate and adopt new manufacturing technologies that reduce life-cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions, lower production costs and create new products and opportunities for high-paying jobs.

“When private-sector businesses connect with the tremendous expertise and capabilities of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, everybody wins,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), who attended Monday’s signing. “That’s not just the company and scientists.  Most importantly it’s the American taxpayer, whose investments in the National Laboratory System are so important for driving American competitiveness.”

The project will draw on CINCINNATI’s experience in the design, manufacturing and control of large-scale manufacturing systems, especially laser cutting systems used in metal fabrication. CINCINNATI focuses on manufacturing powdered metal compacting presses, a process used to produce high volume production parts for the automotive industry.  The machine tool manufacturer has shipped more than 55,000 machines during its 115 years of operation.

“Cincinnati Incorporated has enjoyed a long working relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said CINCINNATI CEO Andrew Jamison.  “Over the years we have supplied over 40 metal working machine tools to Oak Ridge and its various subcontractors.  As one of the oldest U.S. machine tool manufacturers, with continuous operation since 1898, we view this exciting opportunity as starting a new chapter in our history of serving U.S. manufacturing.  Out of this developmental partnership with ORNL, CINCINNATI intends to lead the world in big area additive manufacturing machinery for both prototyping and production.”

The partners will start by incorporating additive manufacturing technology with the machine base of CINCINNATI’s state-of-the-art laser cutting system, creating a prototype, large-scale additive manufacturing system. The research team will then integrate a high-speed cutting tool, pellet feed mechanism and control software into the gantry system to offer additional capabilities.

“Today’s agreement with Cincinnati Incorporated exemplifies ORNL’s strong commitment to working with industry to move our innovations into real-world applications,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “These partnerships come with the potential for significant energy and economic impacts.”

For more information, visit: science.energy.gov

Published in ORNL

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is proud to announce the awardees of its second call for additive manufacturing (AM) applied research and development projects from its members. Driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes will provide $9 million in funding toward these projects with $10.3 million in matching cost share from the awarded project teams for total funding worth $19.3 million.

According to America Makes Director and NCDMM Vice President Ed Morris, "We were very pleased by the quality of the projects proposed by our members for this second round of additive manufacturing R&D projects being launched, which of course made the final selection process even more challenging. Combined with the projects underway from our first project call, we will soon have nearly $30 million of public and private funds invested in advancing the state-of-the-art in additive manufacturing in the United States."

The Institute's second project call, which was released on August 30, 2013, was focused on five technical topic areas-design for AM; AM materials; process and equipment; qualification and certification; and knowledgebase development-each with subset focus areas. Proposals could address one or more technical topic areas, but had to address all evaluation criteria.

The 15 selected projects span a variety of AM processes and materials with near-term technical achievements that address a comprehensive set of priorities-needs, gaps, and opportunities-within the AM and 3D printing industry. Moreover, these projects represent exceptional teaming within the America Makes community and beyond. Of the 75 individual partners among the 15 selected projects, 31 are America Makes members, including four Platinum (Lead) members, 15 Gold (Full) members; and 12 Silver (Supporting) members.

Subject to the finalization of all contractual details and requirements, the 15 selected America Makes projects are as follows:

•    "In-Process Quality Assurance (IPQA) for Laser Powder Bed Production of Aerospace Components"
Led by General Electric Aviation, in partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne; B6 Sigma, Inc.; Burke E. Porter Machinery Company; Honeywell Aerospace; Montana Tech of The University of Montana; and TechSolve, Inc., this project will address the need for the development of a commercially available, platform-independent Quality Assurance technology for high-volume AM production of aerospace components, which is currently lacking within the industry. The proposed effort will be achieved through the maturation of an IPQA technology solution that leverages a development approach, incorporating multiple AM machines and multiple super alloys.

•    "Developing Topology Optimization Tools that Enable Efficient Design of AM Cellular Structures"
Led by the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with Acutec Precision Machining Inc.; Alcoa Inc.; ANSYS, Inc.; and ExOne, this project will develop robust software for design and optimization of AM structural designs based on cellular structures. The key innovation in this technology is the utilization of micromechanics models for capturing the effective behavior of cellular structures in finite element analysis (FEA). The results from this project will enable the AM community to optimize advanced cellular structures for the design and manufacture of lightweight and strong AM parts, impacting multiple commercial sectors.

•    "AM of Biomedical Devices from Bioresorbable Metallic Alloys for Medical Applications"
Led by the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with ExOne and Magnesium Elektron Powders, this project will develop AM methods to convert magnesium and iron-based alloys into biomedical devices, such as bone plates, tracheal stents, and scaffolds. Biocompatibility, bioresorption, and mechanical testing will be performed on the fabricated test specimens produced by a binder jet printing shape-making approach.

•    "Refining Microstructure of AM Materials to Improve Non-Destructive Inspection (NDI)"
Led by EWI, in partnership with Lockheed Martin and Sciaky, Inc., this project will address the need to improve the ability to ultrasonic inspect titanium alloy components for high-performance aerospace applications, which feature a complex microstructure created during the electron beam directed energy deposition and subsequent heat treatment processes, through the modification of deposition process parameters and advancement of ultrasonic inspection techniques.

•    "Development of Distortion Prediction and Compensation Methods for Metal Powder-Bed AM"
Led by GE Global Research, in partnership with 3DSim, Inc.; CDI Corporation; Honeywell Aerospace; Pan Computing LLC; Penn State University; United Technologies Research Center; and the University of Louisville, this project will benchmark and validate physics-based thermal distortion prediction and mitigation tools for metal powder-bed AM. The goal of this project is to achieve a significant reduction in development time enabled by physics-based distortion prediction and compensation tools. It is anticipated that this project will be foundational in establishing a standard set of AM design rules, distortion mitigation practices, and associated training for the entire AM supply base.

•    "Development of a Low-Cost 'Lens® Engine'"
Led by Optomec, in partnership with Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control; MachMotion; TechSolve, Inc.; and U.S. Army Benet Laboratories, this project will enable a broad proliferation of metal AM through the development of a modular, cost-effective "LENS® Engine" for metal laser deposition, which can be installed into virtually any modern machine tool. To reach this goal, the latest in controls, toolpath generation, and quality monitoring are to be embedded in a modular design that can be easily upgraded and maintained as part of a machine tool system.

•    "Development of Knowledgebase of Deposition Parameters for Ti-6Al-4V and IN718"
Led by Optomec, in partnership with Applied Optimization Inc., this project will offer an efficient and reusable solution to define process parameters that result in defect-free deposition in metallic AM. The knowledgebase will consist of a matrix of permissible combinations of process parameter values that may be used in order to produce defect-free additive deposits using the LENS process. The knowledgebase will provide a process engineer the ability to select from a matrix of vetted process parameter combinations and minimize/eliminate the trial-and-error or cut-and-try approach to process development. The knowledgebase will be generated for two alloys of interest, Ti-6Al-4V and IN718.

•    "Automatic Finishing of Metal AM Parts to Achieve Required Tolerances & Surface Finishes"
Led by North Carolina State University, in partnership with Advanced Machining; CalRAM Inc.; FineLine Prototyping, Inc.; Iowa State University; John Deere; Kennametal Inc.; and Productivity Inc., this project will address a critical need currently impeding the broader adoption of AM methodologies. The goal of this project is to create a system that will be able to produce a mechanical product to final geometric specification. A hybrid manufacturing system, using both additive and then subtractive processing, will be developed so that mechanical parts can be "digitally manufactured" to meet the necessary final geometric accuracy required.

•    "Electron Beam Melted Ti-6Al-4V AM Demonstration and Allowables Development"
Led by Northrop Grumman in partnership with CalRAM Inc.; Concurrent Technologies Corporation; General Electric; and Robert C. Byrd Institute, this project will demonstrate the full-scale component fabrication of electron beam (E-Beam) AM Ti-6Al-4V titanium alloy components, the development of a complete set of materials design allowables, and validation of non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methods on full-scale E-Beam AM demonstration components. Implementation opportunities for air and space structural components, as well as propulsion system components, will also be evaluated for transition to production.

•    "3D Printing Multi-Functionality: AM for Aerospace Applications"
Led by the University of Texas - El Paso, in partnership with Lockheed Martin; Northrop Grumman Corporation; rp+m, Inc.; Stratasys, Ltd.; The University of New Mexico; and Youngstown State University, a comprehensive manufacturing suite will be integrated into a base AM fabrication process to include 1) extrusion of a wide variety of robust thermoplastics/metals; 2) micromachining; 3) laser ablation; 4) embedding wires and fine-pitch meshes submerged within the thermoplastics; and 5) robotic component placement. Collectively, the integrated technologies will fabricate multi-material structures through the integration of multiple integrated manufacturing systems to provide multi-functional products like consumer wearable electronics, biomedical devices, and defense, space, and energy systems.

•    "Metal Alloys and Novel Ultra-Low-Cost 3D Weld Printing Platform for Rapid Prototyping and Production"
Led by Michigan Technological University, in partnership with Aleph Objects, Inc.; ASM International; Miller/ITW; ThermoAnalytics, Inc.; and The Timken Company, this project will focus on four interlinked tasks necessary to commercialize an ultra-low-cost 3D metal printer and develop new 3D printable alloys for it. Material development will focus on aluminum alloys, with the ultimate goal of developing a printable alloy from recycled beverage containers or cans.

•    "Accelerated Adoption of AM Technology in the American Foundry Industry"
Led by the Youngstown Business Incubator, in partnership with the American Foundry Society; ExOne; Humtown Products; Janney Capital Markets; and the University of Northern Iowa, this project team will support the transition of binder jet AM to the small business casting industry by allowing increased access to use of binder jet equipment and the development of design guidelines and process specifications.

•    "A Database Relating Powder Properties to Process Outcomes for Direct Metal AM"
Led by Carnegie Mellon University, in partnership with AMETEK Specialty Metal Products; ATI Powder Metals; CalRAM Inc.; Carpenter Powder Products Inc.; FineLine Prototyping, Inc.; Medical Modeling Corporation; North Carolina State University; Oxford Performance Materials; Pratt & Whitney; Robert C. Byrd Institute; TE Connectivity Ltd.; United Technologies Research Center; and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, this project will create a first-of-its-kind database relating powder properties (e.g., mean particle diameter, particle diameter distribution, particle morphology, metrics for flowability) from various suppliers to process outcomes (e.g., powder spreadability, powder ability to be sintered, melt pool geometry, microstructure, geometric precision, and material hardness). Additionally, for at least one powder system that is not immediately useable in a direct metal machine, the project will identify process variable changes needed to make that powder system yield outcomes comparable to standard powders.

•    "High-Throughput Functional Material Deposition Using a Laser Hot Wire Process"  - Case Western Reserve University
Led by Case Western Reserve University, in partnership with Aquilex Corporate Technology Center (AZZ, Inc.); Lincoln Electric Company; rp+m, Inc.; and RTI International Metals, this project will focus on the assessment of a laser-assisted, wire-based additive process developed by the Lincoln Electric Company for different high-throughput functional material deposition applications, and will benchmark it against a laser-/powder-based AM process.

•    "Optimization of Parallel Consolidation Method for Industrial Additive Manufacturing"
Led by Stony Creek Labs, in partnership with Grid Logic; Michigan Economic Development Corporation; MSC; Oakland University; and Raytheon Missile Systems, this project will continue development of a novel method for AM by consolidating powder at many points on a part simultaneously. Materials and process data relating to the parallel consolidation method will be captured in a knowledgebase in a format consistent with the America Makes national repository framework. The knowledgebase will be complemented by online training, workforce development, and publication initiatives to disseminate information about the project's results and support transition to commercial adoption.

"I want to congratulate the America Makes community and our second project call awardees," said America Makes Founding Director and NCDMM President and Executive Director Ralph Resnick. "I continue to be extraordinarily proud of the strides that America Makes is making to advance additive manufacturing and 3DP technologies. Today's announcement of the second project call awardees exemplifies how our incredibly innovative and active community-comprising both members and non-members-is working together, sometimes even with competitors, to advance our industry by exploring the limitless possibilities of 3DP. I am very excited for these projects to get underway."

The anticipated start date of the second set of projects is early Spring 2014.

In addition to today's project award announcement, America Makes is also announcing that it will conduct a Program Management Review for members only on March 18-20 in Youngstown, Ohio. The review will include overviews of the new projects being awarded.

America Makes is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. As the national accelerator for additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing (3DP), America Makes is the nation's leading and collaborative partner in AM and 3DP technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation. Structured as a public-private partnership with member organizations from industry, academia, government, non-government agencies, and workforce and economic development resources, we are working together to innovate and accelerate AM and 3DP to increase our nation's global manufacturing competitiveness. Based in Youngstown, Ohio, America Makes is the pilot institute for up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes and is driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM).

For more information, visit: www.americamakes.us

Published in America Makes

New steps are being taken to strengthen the manufacturing sector, boost advanced manufacturing, and attract the good paying jobs that a growing middle class requires. A North Carolina headquartered consortium of businesses and universities, led by North Carolina State University, will lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics.

In last year’s State of the Union address, the President proposed a series of three new manufacturing institutes that the Administration can create using existing resources - this is the first of those institutes.  In May, a competition was launched for these three new manufacturing innovation institutes with a Federal commitment of $200 million across five Federal agencies – Defense, Energy, Commerce, NASA, and the National Science Foundation, building off the success of a pilot institute headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio.  The additional two institutes led by the Department of Defense – focused on Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation and Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing – are still in the selection process and will be awarded in the coming weeks.

Each institute is to serve as a regional hub designed to bridge the gap between applied research and product development, bringing together companies, universities, institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.  This type of “teaching factory” provides a unique opportunity for education and training of students and workers at all levels, while providing the shared assets to help companies, most importantly small manufacturers, access the cutting-edge capabilities and equipment to design, test, and pilot new products and manufacturing processes.

The new manufacturing innovation institute announced in North Carolina is focused on enabling the next generation of energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics in the next five years.  These improvements will make power electronic devices like motors, consumer electronics, and devices that support our power grid faster, smaller, and more efficient.   The winning team, led by North Carolina State University, brings together a consortium of leading companies that included some of the world’s leading wide band gap semiconductor manufacturers, leading materials providers, and critical end-users with universities on the cutting edge of technology development and research, all in a vibrant and entrepreneurial region that can serve as the foundation for ongoing U.S leadership in this important technology.  The Department of Energy is awarding $70 million over five years, matched by at least $70 million in non-federal commitments by the winning team of businesses and universities, along with the state of North Carolina.

The announcement is another step forward toward creating a national network of up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes, which will also require legislation from Congress. In July 2013, Senators Brown (D-OH) and Blunt (R-MO) and Congressmen Reed (R-NY) and Kennedy (D-MA) co-sponsored bipartisan legislation in both the Senate and House that would create a network for manufacturing innovation led by the Department of Commerce consistent with the President’s vision, helping the United States to take advantage of this unique opportunity to accelerate growth and innovation in domestic production and create the foundation for well-paying jobs that strengthen the middle class.  The President will continue to support this bipartisan legislation and will work with Congress to get it passed, and will continue to make progress where he can through existing authority to boost these partnerships that are key to supporting high-quality manufacturing jobs.

Additional Background on the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute:

The Next Generation Power Electronics Institute will provide the innovation infrastructure needed to support new product and process technologies, education, and training to become a global center of excellence for the development of wide bandgap semiconductor devices and industry-relevant processes.  The DOE-supported manufacturing innovation institute’s headquarters will be located on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. The university will also host some of the institute’s shared research and development facilities and testing equipment, as well as workforce development and education programs.

In the last century, silicon semiconductors transformed computing, communication and energy industries, giving consumers and businesses more and more powerful devices that were once unimaginable. Today, as we reach the limits of silicon-based electronics for some critical applications, WBG semiconductors offer a new opportunity to jumpstart the next generation of smaller, faster, cheaper and more efficient power electronics for personal devices, electric vehicles, renewable power interconnection, industrial-scale variable speed drive motors and a smarter, more flexible grid.

The institute will provide shared facilities, equipment, and testing and modeling capabilities to companies across the power electronics supply chain, particularly small and medium-size manufacturers, to help invent, design and manufacture new semiconductor chips and devices. The institute will also pair chip designers and manufacturers with large power electronic manufacturers and suppliers, to bring these technologies to market faster and will offer training, higher education programs and hands-on internships that give American workers the skills for new job opportunities and meet the needs of this emerging and globally competitive industry.

Compared to silicon-based technologies, wide bandgap semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures and have greater durability and reliability at higher voltages and frequencies – ultimately achieving unprecedented performance while using less electricity. These technologies can reduce the size of consumer electronics like laptop adapters by 80% or the size of a power station to the size of a suitcase.  By supporting the foundation for a strong wide bandgap semiconductor manufacturing base, the United States can lead in some of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets from consumer appliances and industrial-scale equipment to telecommunications and clean energy technologies.

The winning consortium, led by North Carolina State University and headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, includes the State of North Carolina and:

  • 18 Companies: ABB, APEI, Avogy, Cree, Delphi, Delta Products, DfR Solutions, Gridbridge, Hesse Mechantronics, II-VI, IQE, John Deere, Monolith Semiconductor, RF Micro Devices, Toshiba International, Transphorm, USCi, Vacon

  • 7 Universities and Labs: North Carolina State [Lead], Arizona State University, Florida State University, University of California at Santa Barbara, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Background on DOD-led Manufacturing Innovation Institutes:

Competitions continue for the two Department of Defense led manufacturing innovation institutes, which will be selected and awarded in the coming weeks.  Those institutes will focus on technologies critical to the Department’s needs that also have broad commercial applications across different manufacturing industries that will help to drive U.S. leadership in the technologies and skills needed to encourage job-creating investment in the U.S.

The two institutes are:

  • Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation: Advanced design and manufacturing tools that are digitally integrated and networked with supply chains can lead to 'factories of the future' forming an agile U.S. industrial base with significant speed to market advantage. A national institute focusing on the development of novel model-based design methodologies, virtual manufacturing tools, and sensor and robotics based manufacturing networks will accelerate the innovation in digital manufacturing increasing U.S. competitiveness.

  • Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing: Advanced lightweight metals possess mechanical and electrical properties comparable to traditional materials while enabling much lighter components and products. A national institute will make the U.S. more competitive by scaling-up research to accelerate market expansion for products such as wind turbines, medical devices, engines, armored combat vehicles, and airframes, and lead to significant reductions in manufacturing and energy costs.


For more information, visit: www.ncsu.edu/power

Published in White House

DARPA defines its research portfolio within a framework that puts the Agency's enduring mission in the context of tomorrow's environment for national security and technology. An integral part of this strategy includes establishing and sustaining a pipeline of talented scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who are motivated to pursue high risk, high payoff fundamental research in disciplines that are critical to maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.

DARPA's Young Faculty Awards (YFA) program addresses this need by funding the work of promising researchers and pairing them with DARPA program managers. This pairing provides YFA researchers with mentoring and networking opportunities as well as exposure to DoD technology needs and the overall research and development process. The 2014 YFA solicitation includes technical topic areas in the physical sciences, engineering, materials, mathematics, biology, computing, informatics and manufacturing disciplines that are relevant to the research interests of DARPA's Defense Sciences and Microsystems Technology Offices.

"YFA offers promising junior faculty members and their peers at nonprofit research institutions the chance to do potentially revolutionary work much earlier in their careers than they otherwise could," said William Casebeer, DARPA program manager for the 2014 class. "By expanding the list of research topics this year from 13 to 18 - our largest portfolio since the program started in 2006 - we hope to attract even more creative proposals that could lead to future breakthroughs on critical defense challenges. The growth reflects how successful past awardees have been in supporting DARPA's mission."

Eligible applicants must be employed in U.S. institutions of higher learning and within five years of appointment to a tenure-track position, or hold equivalent positions at non-profit research institutions.

Researchers selected for YFA grants receive up to $500,000 in funding over a 24-month period. As many as four of the most exceptional performers may be selected to receive up to another $500,000 over an additional year under a DARPA Director's Fellowship.

DARPA is, for the first time, permitting proposers to form partnerships with subcontractors. The subcontractor relationship cannot exceed 30 percent of the total grant value. In addition to enhancing the competitiveness of proposed research plans, this change is designed to provide young investigators with the opportunity to manage a multidisciplinary team and gain a better understanding of the work performed by a DARPA program manager.

"The YFA program represents a strategic investment in fundamental research and professional development of the next generation of scientists and engineers focused on defense and national security issues," said Mari Maeda, director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office. "It also benefits the young researchers and their institutions by engaging them in valuable, high-risk, high-impact research, providing a mentoring relationship with a DARPA program manager, expanding channels for future ideas to flow, and, now, exposing them to the rigors of managing a multidisciplinary team."

The list of technical topic areas for 2014 includes:

  • Optimizing Supervision for Improved Autonomy
  • Neurobiological Mechanisms of Social Media Processing
  • Next-generation Neural Sensing for Brain-Machine Interfaces
  • Mathematical and Computational Methods to Identify and Characterize Logical and Causal Relations in Information
  • Time-Dependent Integrated Computational Materials Engineering
  • Long-range Detection of Special Nuclear Materials
  • Alternate Fusion Concepts
  • New Materials and Devices for Monitoring and Modulating Local Physiology
  • Methods and Theory for Fundamental Circuit-Level Understanding of the Human Brain
  • Hierarchically Complex Materials that Respond and Adapt
  • Disruptive Materials Processing
  • Disruptive Computing Architectures
  • Appliqué Antenna Elements for Platform Integration
  • Modeling Phonon Generation and Transport in the Near Junction Region of Wide-Bandgap Transistors
  • Advanced Automation and Microfluidic Technologies for Engineering Biology
  • Energy Recovery in Post-CMOS Technologies
  • Thin Film Transistors for High-performance RF and Power Electronics
  • Neural-inspired Computer Engineering

For more information, visit: www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=247637

Published in DARPA

A potential “fountain of youth” for metal, GE (NYSE:GE) researchers announced the use of a process called “cold spray,” in which metal powders are sprayed at high velocities to build a part or add material to repair an existing part. Cold spray is part of GE’s expanded additive manufacturing toolkit.

Anteneh Kebbede, Manager of the Coating and Surface Technologies Lab at the GE Research Center said, “In addition to being able to build new parts without welding or machining, what’s particularly exciting about cold spray as an innovative, 3D process is that it affords us the opportunity to restore parts using materials that blend in and mirror the properties of the original part itself. This extends the lifespan of parts by years, or possibly by decades, ultimately providing improved customer value.”

Spray technologies are particularly attractive for the production of large structures, which are challenging for today’s powder-bed additive manufacturing processes due to equipment size limitations. The cold spray technique has the potential to scale up to build larger parts, with the only limitation being the size of the area over which metal powders can be applied.

Cold spray—also known as 3D painting—demonstrates a unique marriage of materials, process, and product function which can, in the immediate future, transform repair processes for industrial and aircraft components such as rotors, blades, shafts, propellers, and gear boxes. Since cold spray does not require heat, like common repair processes such as welding, it allows a repaired part to be restored close to its original condition. In GE’s Oil and Gas business, GE researchers are exploring cold spray as an alternate way to repair or coat parts involved in oil and gas drilling and turbo machinery.

Cold spray’s future benefits include extended product lifespan and reduced manufacturing time and material costs, all of which translate into significant customer benefits.

For more information, visit: www.ge.com/stories/additive-manufacturing

Published in GE

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the award of two grants totaling $7.4 million to fund research projects aimed at improving measurement and standards for the rapidly developing field of additive manufacturing. Benefits of additive manufacturing include producing goods quickly and on-demand, with greater customization and complexity and less material waste.

NIST is awarding $5 million to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio, which is operated by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, for a three-phase collaborative research effort involving 27 companies, universities and national laboratories. Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., will receive $2.4 million to develop tools for process control and qualifying parts made with layer-by-layer additive-manufacturing processes.

“Improving additive manufacturing is an important part of the administration’s efforts to help U.S. manufacturers by supporting new opportunities to innovate,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. “The public-private research partnerships led by NAMII and Northern Illinois University are tackling important measurement science-related barriers that must be overcome before this cutting-edge technology can be more widely used, helping America remain innovative and globally competitive.”

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a group of new technologies that build up objects, usually by laying down many thin layers on top of each other. In contrast, traditional machining creates objects by cutting material away. A diverse array of manufacturing industries—from aircraft to medical devices and from electronics to customized consumer goods—are already using or exploring applications of these new technologies.

Additive manufacturing processes face a variety of hurdles that limit their utility for high-value products and applications. Technical challenges include inadequate data on the properties of materials used, limited process control, lack of standardized tests for qualifying machine performance and limited modeling and design tools. The new projects aim to address those challenges.

Specifically, the grants announced today will support NAMII’s three-part research plan that seeks to ensure that quality parts are produced and certified for use in products made by a variety of industries and their supply chains. Northern Illinois University and its collaborators plan to develop a suite of integrated tools for process control and additive manufacturing part qualification.

The competitively awarded grants, which are for two years, were made through NIST’s Measurement Science for Advanced Manufacturing (MSAM) Cooperative Agreement Program.

For more information, visit: www.manufacturing.gov/msam_awards.html

Published in NIST

NAMII, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), proudly announces its second call for additive manufacturing (AM) applied research and development projects from NAMII members. NAMII will provide $9 million in funding for multiple awards.

“Today’s announcement of NAMII’s second call for projects is the accumulation of months of focused work and in-depth analysis on two fronts that are intrinsically linked: The creation of a formal, member-driven project call process and the development of a National Additive Manufacturing Roadmap, our technology investment strategy,” said NAMII Director and NCDMM Vice President Ed Morris. “Both initiatives originated from NAMII’s efforts to capture the voice of our community, beginning in April with our initial Program Management Review (PMR) meeting continuing at our RAPID appearance in June, and progressing throughout a series of NAMII member-only workshops held in July.

“The input we gathered across the board was invaluable,” continued Mr. Morris. “As a result, NAMII now has a robust project call process in place that can be leveraged for all future calls. It will also drive the ongoing evolution of a very timely, accurate, and forward-looking Roadmap. Together, the process and Roadmap enabled us to identify a comprehensive set of priorities — needs, gaps, and opportunities — within our industry. NAMII is addressing those priorities with this second call for applied research and development projects. I look forward to receiving an influx of submissions from NAMII members.”

NAMII’s second call for projects comes just two weeks after commemorating its first anniversary — an industrious, high-energy year marked by notable achievements for the public-private partnership that is currently 80 members strong. With the release of this second project call, NAMII is well positioned for yet another productive and successful year.

“From the PMR meetings to RAPID and most recently, at a series of engaging and collaborative workshops facilitated by NAMII, we remain diligent in all our efforts to empower our members and community and to prioritize their needs,” added Rob Gorham, NAMII Deputy Director – Technology Development. “NAMII is incredibly proud and excited to release such a community-driven, second project call that will fund cross-cutting additive manufacturing and 3D printing projects with the potential to produce some big outcomes.”

NAMII’s Project Call Request for Proposal (RFP) is limited to five technical topic areas with subset focus areas. Proposals can address one or more technical topic areas, but must address all evaluation criteria.

I. Design for Additive Manufacturing

a) Complex and Reproducible Designs via Modeling and Simulation Tools: The ability to manufacture very complex design geometries continues to be demonstrated with current AM / 3DP processes. The challenge exists when attempting to validate the value of the design as the final solution. Modeling and simulation provides the platform for capturing the interactions of material, processes, and design. The focus of this technical topic is the development of modeling and simulation tools that enable the ability to “virtually” evaluate and optimize process and product alternatives for reduced cost, schedule risk reduction and performance improvements.

II. Additive Manufacturing Materials

a) Sustainable Materials for AM / 3DP: Two important R&D needs have been identified to support the increased utilization of sustainable materials for AM. Responsive proposals to this subtopic may address one or both of these challenges:

1. For designers to better understand the impact of material selection, the understanding of recycling limits through a Recyclability Index that accounts for the embodied energy and processability of materials has been identified as a R&D need. AM polymeric and metallic materials of greatest interest to industry should be targeted for this effort.

2. To increase the availability of design and production material options, design and development of materials that offer improved recyclability is also needed. Incorporating these characteristics into tools such as integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) will further increase the sustainability of AM. Successful projects that address this topic area are anticipated to reduce the life-cycle energy through increased recycling of materials and reduce cost through the ability to reuse/recycle materials and parts.

b) Gradient and Tailored Materials: Limited capabilities exist today for integrating different properties and functionality within a single part or build volume, with significant limitations on material properties that can be created with current materials options. An R&D need has been identified for the development of metallic and/or polymeric complex parts created with gradient and tailored materials properties within one part/build that may be accomplished by varying process parameters or the use of different feedstock materials. Successful projects that address this topic area are anticipated to offer an increased return on investment (e.g., elimination of post-processing coating applications or assembly/bonding of parts) and creation of tailored material properties through the support and development of new, advanced applications for advanced applications.

III. Process and Equipment

a) Next Generation Machine: Opportunities are available for the development of the next generation of AM equipment. An R&D need is the improvement of existing AM equipment to achieve a significant improvement in two (or more) aspects, such as speed, resolution or batch volume. This would provide an advantage for equipment and part manufacturers and lower the barriers of entry to multiple markets.

b) Multiple Materials Processing Equipment: Integrated electronics within AM parts may be a significant advancement for the industry, but has not yet been sufficiently developed for commercialization. This project technical topic would develop, demonstrate, and transition equipment for the production of polymeric parts with embedded electronic components (such as sensors and other components) for advanced product markets.

c) Energy Self-Monitoring Additive Manufacturing Equipment Systems: Many AM processes have wasted process energy that contributes to the overall energy cost of a manufacturing operation. Manufacturers have little knowledge of the energy impacts of changing from traditional manufacturing processes to AM processes. This topic will address the opportunities to develop methods for equipment to self-monitor energy consumption. In addition, methodologies for reducing energy usage of AM equipment will be important to further widespread adoption.

IV. Qualification and Certification

a) Non-Destructive Evaluation of Complex Geometries: Commercially available, and potentially emerging, non-destructive evaluation (NDE) techniques for complex geometries need to be defined for AM to assure end-user and customer confidence of the quality of finished, high-value AM components. The focus of this technical topic is the integration of existing NDE techniques or development of new in-situ sensing capabilities or post-process techniques to measure, monitor, and take action on complex AM/3DP build geometries and/or features.

V. Knowledgebase Development

a) Process/Properties Validation Data Set: A national repository of data on process/material property information is needed. NAMII is currently developing the framework for capturing data of relevance to the AM industry. To incentivize materials/process data creation and sharing, a knowledgebase is under development. The focus of this technical topic is the development of round robin collaborative testing of materials/processes that have high relevance to industry and high-market potential, and to contribute the resulting data to the NAMII knowledgebase. Materials of interest include polymers, metals, ceramics, and other materials relevant to industry needs and growing AM markets.

The NAMII Project RFP process is open to all organizations as long as they are partnered with a NAMII member and the NAMII member submits the proposal on behalf of that project partnership/collaboration as the lead proposer.

An e-mail notice of intent to submit from the lead proposer of the project team is requested no later than Friday, September 27, 2013, to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and should include the proposed topics(s)/subtopic(s).

All proposals are due by Friday, October 31, 2013. Submissions must be presented by e-mail to the technical contact listed below with “NAMII PROJECT PROPOSAL” as the Subject line. E-mail submissions to:

Rob Gorham
NAMII Deputy Director – Technology Development
National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

All submissions will be acknowledged by a return e-mail confirmation from NCDMM.

The anticipated start date of the second set of projects is January 2014.

For more information, visit: www.namii.org/project-call-2

Published in NAMII

Researchers working to design new materials that are durable, lightweight and environmentally sustainable are increasingly looking to natural composites, such as bone, for inspiration: Bone is strong and tough because its two constituent materials, soft collagen protein and stiff hydroxyapatite mineral, are arranged in complex hierarchical patterns that change at every scale of the composite, from the micro up to the macro.

While researchers have come up with hierarchical structures in the design of new materials, going from a computer model to the production of physical artifacts has been a persistent challenge. This is because the hierarchical structures that give natural composites their strength are self-assembled through electrochemical reactions, a process not easily replicated in the lab.

Now researchers at MIT have developed an approach that allows them to turn their designs into reality. In just a few hours, they can move directly from a multiscale computer model of a synthetic material to the creation of physical samples.

In a paper published online June 17 in Advanced Functional Materials, associate professor Markus Buehler of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-authors describe their approach. Using computer-optimized designs of soft and stiff polymers placed in geometric patterns that replicate nature’s own patterns, and a 3-D printer that prints with two polymers at once, the team produced samples of synthetic materials that have fracture behavior similar to bone. One of the synthetics is 22 times more fracture-resistant than its strongest constituent material, a feat achieved by altering its hierarchical design.

Two are stronger than one

The collagen in bone is too soft and stretchy to serve as a structural material, and the mineral hydroxyapatite is brittle and prone to fracturing. Yet when the two combine, they form a remarkable composite capable of providing skeletal support for the human body. The hierarchical patterns help bone withstand fracturing by dissipating energy and distributing damage over a larger area, rather than letting the material fail at a single point.

“The geometric patterns we used in the synthetic materials are based on those seen in natural materials like bone or nacre, but also include new designs that do not exist in nature,” says Buehler, who has done extensive research on the molecular structure and fracture behavior of biomaterials. His co-authors are graduate students Leon Dimas and Graham Bratzel, and Ido Eylon of the 3-D printer manufacturer Stratasys. “As engineers we are no longer limited to the natural patterns. We can design our own, which may perform even better than the ones that already exist.”

The researchers created three synthetic composite materials, each of which is one-eighth inch thick and about 5-by-7 inches in size. The first sample simulates the mechanical properties of bone and nacre (also known as mother of pearl). This synthetic has a microscopic pattern that looks like a staggered brick-and-mortar wall: A soft black polymer works as the mortar, and a stiff blue polymer forms the bricks. Another composite simulates the mineral calcite, with an inverted brick-and-mortar pattern featuring soft bricks enclosed in stiff polymer cells. The third composite has a diamond pattern resembling snakeskin. This one was tailored specifically to improve upon one aspect of bone’s ability to shift and spread damage.

A step toward ‘metamaterials’

The team confirmed the accuracy of this approach by putting the samples through a series of tests to see if the new materials fracture in the same way as their computer-simulated counterparts. The samples passed the tests, validating the entire process and proving the efficacy and accuracy of the computer-optimized design. As predicted, the bonelike material proved to be the toughest overall.

“Most importantly, the experiments confirmed the computational prediction of the bonelike specimen exhibiting the largest fracture resistance,” says Dimas, who is the first author of the paper. “And we managed to manufacture a composite with a fracture resistance more than 20 times larger than its strongest constituent.”

According to Buehler, the process could be scaled up to provide a cost-effective means of manufacturing materials that consist of two or more constituents, arranged in patterns of any variation imaginable and tailored for specific functions in different parts of a structure. He hopes that eventually entire buildings might be printed with optimized materials that incorporate electrical circuits, plumbing and energy harvesting. “The possibilities seem endless, as we are just beginning to push the limits of the kind of geometric features and material combinations we can print,” Buehler says.

The work was funded by the U.S. Army Research Office.

Written by: Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company, partnered with the University of Connecticut to establish one of the nation's most advanced additive manufacturing laboratories, the Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center.

"We are excited to further strengthen our partnership with Pratt & Whitney, an industry leader in using additive manufacturing technology," said Susan Herbst, president, University of Connecticut. "Our partnership with Pratt & Whitney is a great example of how industry and universities can work together to enhance research capabilities."

This state-of-the-art facility will be used to further additive manufacturing research and development, and is the first in the Northeast to work with metals rather than plastics. Additive manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies. Materials are added, versus the traditional subtractive methods such as stamping, forging, computer numerical controlled machining, to precise geometries determined by CAD drawings.

"The University of Connecticut's outstanding technical capacity complements our fundamental research needs and will help us continue to grow our additive manufacturing capabilities," said Paul Adams, Pratt & Whitney's chief operating officer. "Additive manufacturing is complimentary to traditional methods by enabling new innovation in design, speed and affordability. It is necessary to build the next generation of jet engines. We are currently using additive manufacturing to build complex components with extreme precision for the flight-proven PurePower® commercial jet engine."

Pratt & Whitney invested more than $4.5 million in the Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Center and over the next five years will invest more than $3.5 million in the facility. In 2010, Pratt & Whitney established a research Center of Excellence at the University of Connecticut. The Pratt & Whitney Center of Excellence at UConn focuses on fundamental and applied research initiatives that support the design and development of more efficient gas turbine engines. UConn's primary research is in the field of advanced sensors, diagnostics and controls.

The University of Connecticut is one of the nation's leading public research universities. UConn's main campus in Storrs, CT is admitting the highest-achieving freshmen in University history. As a Carnegie Foundation Research University, the University of Connecticut has more than 100 research centers and institutes supporting its teaching, research, diversity, and outreach missions.

Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, auxiliary and ground power units, small turbojet propulsion products and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies Corporation, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and building industries.

For more information, visit: www.engr.uconn.edu

Published in Pratt & Whitney

Three-dimensional printing technology is now being used in a University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus laboratory, thanks to a $600,000 capital equipment grant from the Veterans Administration. The CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus / VA Biomechatronics Development Laboratory is home to a cutting-edge 3D printer: a metal laser sintering machine.

Richard Weir, Ph.D., a leading researcher in robotic technology for arm amputees, said the fabricator will allow his research team to develop better components -- created faster and less costly -- for prosthetic fingers, hands and arms. Weir, an associate research professor in the Department of Bioengineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science, also envisions creating a prototyping center as a resource for other university and VA researchers.

"It's a whole new way of thinking about how to make things," Weir said. "... The revolutionary aspect is to be able to do stuff that you can't using conventional technology. There is the possibility to fabricate impossible-to-machine components and to explore whether that confers advantage to the designs we're working on."

While 3D plastic printers have been available for many years, metal printing is still "a very nascent technology," Weir said. He estimates that only a couple dozen of the devices -- called direct metal laser-sintering machines and built by German-based EOS e-Manufacturing Solutions -- are being used in the United States, mostly for biomedical and aeronautical applications.

Weir first saw a 3D metal rapid prototype machine being used to create cranial implants -- custom titanium plates in the shape of the human skull -- at a laboratory at North Carolina State University. "When I saw that I said, 'I want one of those.'"

He got his wish in 2011 when the VA, well aware of Weir's pioneering research that could benefit veteran amputees, funded, through a Capital Equipment Grant, the purchase of one of these machines. His lab had already been using a 3D plastic printer, but a metal prototyping machine dramatically expands the horizons for their prosthetic designs.

"That's what we have a need for when we're building our small hands," said Weir, whose Implantable MyoElectric Sensors work will be tested in clinical trials this spring. "We have all of these tiny parts that need to be very strong, and a lot of times steel turns out to be the best material to work in. If we want, we can change the machine's set-up, for a fee of course, that will allow us to print in a different metal. We can print in titanium, nickel, magnesium, cobalt."

Weir and his team, which includes graduate students from the CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus College of Engineering and Applied Science (Matthew Davidson and Nili Krausz, bioengineering and mechanical engineering departments) and University of Colorado-Boulder (Jacob Segil, mechanical engineering), saw the EOSINT M270 arrive from Germany in late 2011. Weir received a $250,000 discount on the reconditioned machine because it had been used in an EOS facility.

But they had to wait a year to pull it out of storage while space was prepared for it in the Research Institute where Weir's lab is located, in the basement of Children's Hospital Colorado.

The machine uses a three-dimensional digital image to methodically laser-sinter beads of metal powder into solid metal. Most components will be built overnight in the machine, which has a door -- much like a microwave oven -- that allows manufacturers, or in this case researchers, to view the progress of each iterative design.

Segil said the machine creates a "whole new modality" to turn ideas into reality, especially in the tricky area of anthropomorphic design. "For things that don't have hard edges, like our bodies, it makes a world of difference," he said. "To (create) something like our finger, which has curvature and intricacies, out of metal is a horribly difficult and expensive thing to do using conventional machining processes. Now we have a machine to do it."

Weir said he'd like to make the metal prototype machine accessible to other researchers, as has been done with the plastic 3D printer. "We have a lot of rapid-prototyping capability within three or four rooms here. Our hope is to start a sort of prototyping center."

Meanwhile, the president hailed 3D printing technology in his recent State of the Union speech, saying it "has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything." Obama said an innovative manufacturing institute has already launched in Youngstown, Ohio, and he's pushing for as many as 18 such facilities around the nation.

Weir said it will be a process to learn all of the new machine's capabilities. "We will print a part, but it won't necessarily be a finished part," he said. "There's a post-finish process we have to do to clean up a part before it's usable. How much of that we need to do we need to discover."

He pointed out that the university's newly formed Bioengineering Department will begin an undergraduate program this fall. The program will include a design track that will train students to be able to take advantage of such cutting-edge rapid-prototyping equipment.

For more information, visit: www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/Engineering/Programs/bioengineering/Pages/Bioengineering.aspx

Published in University of Colorado

Registration is open for teams seeking to compete in the $1.5 million energy storage competition known as the Night Rover Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, California.

To win, a team must demonstrate a stored energy system that can power a simulated solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate through multiple cycles of daylight and extended periods of darkness.

"The goal of the Night Rover Challenge is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems here on Earth," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "NASA wants this challenge to generate new ideas that will allow planetary rovers the ability to take on a night shift, and possibly create new energy storage technologies for applications of benefit here on our home planet."

This is a Centennial Challenge in which NASA provides the prize purse for technological achievements by independent teams while the Cleantech Open manages the competition as NASA's allied organization. The challenge is extended to individuals, groups and companies working outside the traditional aerospace industry. Unlike most contracts or grants, awards will be made only after solutions are demonstrated successfully.

During the Night Rover Challenge energy storage systems will receive electrical energy from a simulated solar collector during daylight hours. During darkness, the stored energy will be used for simulated thermal management, scientific experimentation, communications and rover movement. A winning system must exceed the performance of an existing state-of-the-art system by a pre-determined margin. The winning system will be the one that has the highest energy storage density.

"The partnership NASA has with the Cleantech Open allows us to leverage taxpayer dollars in advancing technology development in this critical area," said Larry Cooper, Centennial Challenges program executive at NASA Headquarters. "Technology development is a priority for NASA; we push technology development effectively by partnering with industry and academia to advance our nation's space exploration and science goals while maintaining America's technology edge."

Since the program's inception in 2005, NASA's Centennial Challenges has awarded more than $6 million to 15 different competition-winning teams through 23 events. Competitors have included private companies, citizen inventors and academia working outside the traditional aerospace industry. The competitions are managed by nonprofit organizations that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private sponsorships.

The Cleantech Open bills itself as the world's largest accelerator for renewable, or clean, energy technology development. Its mission is to find, fund and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today's most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges. A not-for-profit organization, the Cleantech Open provides the infrastructure, expertise and strategic relationships that turn clever ideas into successful global clean-technology companies.

For information, visit: www.nightrover.org

Published in NASA

The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) near Richmond, Virginia unveiled its new 62,000 square foot research facility during a grand opening event.  

"The new CCAM manufacturing research center represents the expertise and passion of our industry members and university partners," said Dr. Mike Beffel , CCAM Interim President and Executive Director.  "With the goal of bridging the gap between leading edge research and product development, CCAM is at the forefront of new manufacturing processes."

CCAM is a public–private collaborative research center that undertakes research critical to the surface technology and advanced manufacturing industries.

The Prince George County, Virginia facility was completed in late 2012 and features computational and engineering research labs, high bay production space for commercial scale equipment, and tools required for research in surface engineering and manufacturing systems.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell , who has helped further CCAM's research and manufacturing goals, said, "Today's opening of the CCAM research facility marks a pivotal moment for America's global competitiveness.  Companies that take the important step to join the CCAM research center in the Commonwealth of Virginia become partners of a one-of-a-kind asset in the U.S. -- one that drives competitive advantage in the rapidly-transforming advanced manufacturing segment of our nation's economy.  The innovations produced at CCAM are cutting-edge, and the new facility will further Virginia as a hub for advanced manufacturing technology and high-skill jobs in the 21st century."

Research is currently under way in the areas of surface engineering and new manufacturing systems.  Approximately 50 student interns from Virginia's participating universities – Virginia State University, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech – will work alongside industry experts in several research areas at the new facility and in labs around the state.

CCAM industry members include Canon Virginia Inc., Chromalloy, Newport News Shipbuilding, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik, Siemens, Sulzer Metco , Aerojet, Hermle Machine Company, Mitutoyo, TurboCombustor Technology Inc., Buehler, Cool Clean Technologies, GF AgieCharmilles, and Blaser Swisslube. University members include Virginia State University, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

The CCAM facility is located adjacent to the 1,000-acre campus of the Rolls-Royce engine component manufacturing facilities, Rolls-Royce Crosspointe.

CCAM is a research-based collaboration between the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and manufacturing companies worldwide. Manufacturers join CCAM as members and guide research leveraging both university faculty and CCAM scientists in two focus areas: surface engineering and manufacturing systems. CCAM recently completed a 60,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art research facility in Prince George County, Virginia adjacent to Rolls-Royce's jet engine components plant. CCAM took occupancy of the research center on September 11, 2012.

For more information, visit: www.ccam-va.com

NAMII, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), is proud to announce the awardees of its initial call for additive manufacturing (AM) applied research and development projects from NAMII members. NAMII will provide $4.5 million in funding toward these projects with the matching cost share from the awarded project teams totaling $5 million.

“As a collective, NCDMM and NAMII found that the submitted proposals detailed highly innovative additive manufacturing project ideas, featuring applied research and development, efficient use of digital data, high sustainability, and aggressive education outreach and workforce training plans,” said NCDMM Vice President and NAMII Director Ed Morris. “The down-select process proved to be intense. NAMII’s fundamental objective is to spawn the creation of new, innovative products and the corresponding U.S. jobs to support them based on the unique capabilities of additive manufacturing. NCDMM and NAMII have selected seven projects that best integrate with the four NAMII thrust areas of technology development, technology transition, advanced manufacturing enterprise, and education/workforce outreach.”

Jennifer Chase Fielding, Ph.D., NAMII Program Manager and Deputy Program Manager, Defense-wide Manufacturing Science and Technology, Manufacturing Technology Division at Air Force Research Laboratory AFRL/RXMS concurs with Mr. Morris.

“The launch of these developmental research projects is an excellent beginning to the formation of NAMII’s technology portfolio,” added Dr. Fielding. “We are thrilled with the level of collaboration between government, industry, and academia and the resulting value that will be brought to the national additive manufacturing community.”

The NAMII Project Call, which was released on November 27, 2012, at the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC) in Orlando, Fla., was focused on three technical topic areas: Materials Understanding and Performance; Qualification and Certification; and Process Capability and Characterization/Process Control. Proposals submitted to NAMII were to address one or more technical topic areas, but had to address all evaluation criteria.

Additionally, since one of NAMII’s key tenets as established by NCDMM is to promote and provide educational outreach and workforce development training, plans for these components had to be integrated into project proposals as well. For example, additive manufacturing curricula will be developed based on project results for high school pre-engineering courses, as well as community college, undergraduate, and graduate university classes.

The seven selected projects span a variety of metals and polymeric additive manufacturing processes and materials with near-term technical achievements impacting multiple key markets within a few months. Moreover, they represent excellent teaming by NAMII members with more than 30 different participating organizations, including eight universities and 25 industry partners from both small and large businesses. Subject to the finalization of all contractual details and requirements, the approved NAMII projects are as follows:

“Maturation of Fused Depositing Modeling (FDM) Component Manufacturing”
– Rapid Prototype + Manufacturing LLC (RP+M)

Led by small business part producer, RP+M, in partnership with equipment manufacturers and large industry system integrators and the University of Dayton Research Institute, this project will provide the community with a deeper understanding of the properties and opportunities of the high-temperature polymer, ULTEM™ 9085. Some of the key outcomes from this project include a design guide; critical materials and processing data; and machine, material, part and process certification.

“Qualification of Additive Manufacturing Processes and Procedures for Repurposing and Rejuvenation of Tooling”
– Case Western Reserve University

Led by Case Western Reserve University, in partnership with several additive manufacturers, die casters, computer modelers, and the North American Die Casting Association, this project will develop, evaluate, and qualify methods for repairing and repurposing tools and dies. Die casting tools are very expensive — sometimes exceeding $1 million each — and require long lead times to manufacture. The ability to repair and repurpose tools and dies can save energy and costs, and reduce lead time by extending tool life through use of the additive manufacturing techniques developed by this team.

“Sparse-Build Rapid Tooling by Fused Depositing Modeling (FDM) for Composite Manufacturing and Hydroforming”
– Missouri University of Science and Technology

“Fused Depositing Modeling (FDM) for Complex Composites Tooling”
– Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Two projects focusing on fused depositing modeling (FDM) are to be co-led developed in close collaboration by Missouri University of Science and Technology and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, in partnership with other small and large companies and the Robert C. Byrd Institute’s Composite Center of Excellence. These projects address a key near-term opportunity for additive manufacturing:  the ability to rapidly and cost-effectively produce tooling for composite manufacturing. Polymer composite tools often involve expensive, complex machined, metallic structures that can take months to manufacture. Recent developments with high-temperature polymeric tooling, such as the ULTEM™ 9085 material, show great promise for low-cost, energy-saving tooling options for the polymer composites industry. In addition, these projects will explore the use of sparse-build tools, minimizing material use for the needs of the composite process. Composites are high-strength materials that are used in a wide range of industries and can be used for lightweighting, a key strategy for reducing energy use.

“Maturation of High-Temperature Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Technologies and Infrastructure”
– Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Led by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, in partnership with several industry team members, this project will develop a selective laser sintering (SLS) process for a lower-cost, high-temperature thermoplastic for making air and space vehicle components and other commercial applications. In addition, recyclability and reuse of materials will also be explored to maximize cost savings and promote sustainability.

“Thermal Imaging for Process Monitoring and Control of Additive Manufacturing”
– Penn State University Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP 3D)

Led by Penn State University, in partnership with several industry and university team members, this project will expand the use of thermal imaging for process monitoring and control of electron beam direct manufacturing (EBDM) and laser engineered net shaping (LENS) additive manufacturing processes. Improvements to the EBDM and LENS systems will enable 3D visualization of the measured global temperature field and real-time control of electron beam or laser power levels based on thermal image characteristics. These outcomes will enable the community to have greater confidence on part properties and quality using these technologies.

“Rapid Qualification Methods for Powder Bed Direct Metal Additive Manufacturing Processes”
– Case Western Reserve University

Led by Case Western Reserve University, in partnership with leading aerospace industry companies and other industry and university team members, this project will improve the industry’s ability to understand and control microstructure and mechanical properties across EOS Laser Sintering and Arcam Electron Beam Melting (EBM®) powder bed processes. Process-based cost modeling with variable production volumes will also be delivered, providing the community with valuable cost estimates for new product lines. The outcomes from this project will deliver much needed information to qualify these production processes for use across many industries.

“Today’s announcement of NAMII’s first project call awardees is the continuation of the industrious and high-energy pace that NCDMM has established for NAMII since its founding a mere seven months ago as the pilot institute for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) infrastructure,” said Ralph Resnick, NCDMM President and Executive Director and NAMII Founding Director. “This initial award of projects marks the beginning of additional awards to come that will accelerate the integration of additive manufacturing into mainstream manufacturing.”

In addition to today’s project award announcement, NAMII is also announcing that it will conduct Program Management Review and Project Kickoff meetings for NAMII members only on April 2-3 in Youngstown, Ohio. Upon conclusion of the Project Kickoff meeting, more details on the project awards will be made available by the respective awardees.

NAMII will also officially announce its next project call at the RAPID 2013 Conference and Exposition on June 10-13 in Pittsburgh, Pa. This next project call will reflect further refined and key strategic topic areas necessary for NAMII to meet the needs of industry partners and enable the widespread adoption of additive manufacturing technologies and innovations.

For more information, visit: www.namii.org

Published in NAMII

Radios are used for a wide range of tasks, from the most mundane to the most critical of communications, from garage door openers to military operations. As the use of wireless technology proliferates, radios and communication devices often compete with, interfere with, and disrupt the operations of other devices. DARPA seeks innovative approaches that ensure robust communications in such congested and contested environments.

The DARPA Spectrum Challenge is a competition for teams to create software-defined radio protocols that best use communication channels in the presence of other users and interfering signals.

Using a standardized radio hardware platform, the team that finds the best strategies for guaranteeing successful communication in the presence of other competing radios will win.  In addition to bragging rights for the winning teams, one team could win as much as $150,000.

High priority radios in the military and civilian sectors must be able to operate regardless of the ambient electromagnetic environment, to avoid disruption of communications and potential loss of life. Rapid response operations, such as disaster relief, further motivate the desire for multiple radio networks to effectively share the spectrum without requiring direct coordination or spectrum preplanning. Consequently, the need to provide robust communications in the presence of interfering signals is of great importance.

“The Spectrum Challenge is focused on developing new techniques for assured communications in dynamic environments – a necessity for military and first responder missions. We have created a head-to-head competition to see who can transmit a set of data from one radio to another the most effectively and efficiently while being bombarded by interference and competing signals,” said Dr. Yiftach Eisenberg, DARPA program manager. “To win this competition teams will need to develop new algorithms for software-defined radios at universities, small businesses and even on their home computers.”

Registration for the Spectrum Challenge is expected to officially open in January 2013. Any U.S. academic institution, business, or individual, is eligible to compete, with certain restrictions.

For more information, visit: www.darpa.mil/spectrumchallenge

Published in DARPA

Small businesses may submit proposals to nine DARPA technical challenge topics through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program’s Department of Defense FY 2013.1 solicitation, which opened Dec. 17.

DARPA’s topics span the following tech areas: Materials/Processes, Electronics, Biomedical, Human Systems, Information Systems, Sensors and Space Platforms and range in focus from a portable, inexpensive and easy-to-use EEG device for medics in the field; to innovative techniques to automatically detect and patch vulnerabilities in networked, embedded systems; and integrated microsystems to sense and control warfighter physiology to enable extreme military dive operations.

“Small business R&D efforts may introduce disruptive technology or may identify breakthrough approaches to technology barriers that mitigate risk for larger DARPA programs,” said Susan Nichols, director of DARPA’s Small Business Programs Office. “The benefit for small businesses is commercializing the technology they develop to support defense and civilian uses.”

For more information, visit: www.dodsbir.net/solicitation/sbir131/darpa131.htm

Published in DARPA

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has donated aircraft structural parts and kits worth more than $800,000 to Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) for use in its research laboratories and training classes. Airbus donated an elevator for a horizontal tail and two APU change kits.

NIAR researchers John Tomblin and Waruna Seneviratne will use the articles for composite-metal hybrid structural durability and damage tolerance research programs and advance composites hands-on training classes that include composite fabrication, repair and testing. The advanced hands-on composite training class was first developed working with the John Papadatos, head of engineering and site director of Airbus Wichita. The class has been offered for Airbus engineers three times since 2011.

“This is a prime example of the benefit of partnerships between the aviation industry and universities,” said John Tomblin, NIAR executive director. “We’re grateful for Airbus’ investment in furthering aviation research and education and look forward to the existing potential in the growing partnership between Airbus and NIAR.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has been a long-time supporter of NIAR and helped foster the partnership between the two entities.

“Airbus is a great community partner and this investment demonstrates their significant commitment to Wichita and to Kansas,” said Moran. “This generous contribution will provide students at NIAR with invaluable aviation research tools, helping to establish Wichita as a place for aviation companies and their leaders.”

“Airbus is pleased to support Wichita State University and education of the next generation of leaders in this industry,” said Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas. “We already have a good partnership with WSU and are pleased they can use our donation for teaching and research.”  

For more information, visit: www.niar.wichita.edu

Published in NIAR

Here's a reason to be glad about madder: The climbing plant has the potential to make a greener rechargeable battery.

Scientists at Rice University and the City College of New York have discovered that the madder plant, aka Rubia tinctorum, is a good source of purpurin, an organic dye that can be turned into a highly effective, natural cathode for lithium-ion batteries. The plant has been used since ancient times to create dye for fabrics.  

The discovery is the subject of a paper that appears today in Nature's online, open-access journal Scientific Reports.

The goal, according to lead author Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, a research scientist in the Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, is to create environmentally friendly batteries that solve many of the problems with lithium-ion batteries in use today.

"Green batteries are the need of the hour, yet this topic hasn’t really been addressed properly," Reddy said. "This is an area that needs immediate attention and sustained thrust, but you cannot discover sustainable technology overnight. The current focus of the research community is still on conventional batteries, meeting challenges like improving capacity. While those issues are important, so are issues like sustainability and recyclability."

While lithium-ion batteries have become standard in conventional electronics since their commercial introduction in 1991, the rechargeable units remain costly to manufacture, Reddy said. "They're not environmentally friendly. They use cathodes of lithium cobalt oxide, which are very expensive. You have to mine the cobalt metal and manufacture the cathodes in a high-temperature environment. There are a lot of costs.

"And then, recycling is a big issue," he said. "In 2010, almost 10 billion lithium-ion batteries had to be recycled, which uses a lot of energy. Extracting cobalt from the batteries is an expensive process."

Reddy and his colleagues came across purpurin while testing a number of organic molecules for their ability to electrochemically interact with lithium and found purpurin most amenable to binding lithium ions. With the addition of 20 percent carbon to add conductivity, the team built a half-battery cell with a capacity of 90 milliamp hours per gram after 50 charge/discharge cycles. The cathodes can be made at room temperature, he said.

"It's a new mechanism we are proposing with this paper, and the chemistry is really simple," Reddy said. He suggested agricultural waste may be a source of purpurin, as may other suitable molecules, which makes the process even more economical.

Innovation in the battery space is needed to satisfy future demands and counter environmental issues like waste management, "and hence we are quite fascinated by the ability to develop alternative electrode technologies to replace conventional inorganic materials in lithium-ion batteries," said Ajayan, Rice's Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry.

“We're interested in developing value-added chemicals, products and materials from renewable feedstocks as a sustainable technology platform,” said co-lead author George John, a professor of chemistry at the City College of New York-CUNY and an expert on bio-based materials and green chemistry. "The point has been to understand the chemistry between lithium ions and the organic molecules. Now that we have that proper understanding, we can tap other molecules and improve capacity."

Recent work by the Ajayan Group combines silicon and a porous nickel current collector in a way that has proven effective as a high-capacity anode, the other electrode in a lithium-ion battery. That research was reported recently in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

But Reddy hopes to formulate completely green batteries. The team is looking for organic molecules suitable for anodes and for an electrolyte that doesn't break the molecules down. He fully expects to have a working prototype of a complete organic battery within a few years. "What we've come up with should lead to much more discussion in the scientific community about green batteries," he said.

Co-authors of the paper are visiting scholar Porramate Chumyim and former graduate student Sanketh Gowda of Rice; postdoctoral researcher Subbiah Nagarajan, facilities manager Padmanava Pradhan and graduate student Swapnil Jadhav of the City College of New York; and Madan Dubey of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

The research was funded by the Army Research Office.

For more information, visit: www.nature.com/srep/2012/121211/srep00960/full/srep00960.html

Published in Rice University

NineSigma, Inc., of Cleveland, the leading innovation partner to organizations worldwide, announced today they will work with Cincinnati, OH-based AtriCure, Inc. under the new Ohio Third Frontier Open Innovation Incentive (OII) Program. In August, NineSigma was selected by the State of Ohio to help catalyze the growth of middle market companies, with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion, by accelerating their adoption of open innovation. The Ohio Third Frontier OII is aimed at fostering collaborative innovation that will lead to job creation within Ohio and build competitive advantage on the national and global level.

AtriCure, Inc. is a growing medical device company with a strong presence in atrial fibrillation (AF). They are a leader in developing, manufacturing and selling innovative cardiac surgical ablation systems. These systems are designed to create precise lesions, or scars, in heart tissue for the treatment of atrial fibrillation. AF is the most common irregular heartbeat and is characterized by palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath.
 
“Atrial fibrillation affects more than 5.5 million people worldwide and carries with it a five-fold increased risk of stroke. We look forward to beginning our work with the team at AtriCure to help them find best-in-class partners and technologies globally that will advance their cardiac surgical solutions and ability to treat this pervasive condition,” said Andy Zynga, CEO of NineSigma.

Open innovation involves “looking to the outside” for technologies, solutions, and ideas to accelerate the development of new products and increase speed to market. Through the Open Innovation Incentive, NineSigma will work closely with solution seekers to create custom networks of innovation providers to find viable solutions, filtering responses for their quality and fit. The State will assist solution seekers by funding a portion of the transactional costs of engaging an open innovation company.

NineSigma connects organizations with external innovation resources to accelerate innovation in private, public and social sectors. The company provides open innovation services to organizations worldwide, including Kraft, Philips, Siemens, and Unilever, to solve immediate challenges, integrate new knowledge, fill product pipelines, and stay ahead of the competition. Named to the 2012 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private U.S. companies, NineSigma’s proprietary process has produced billions of dollars in value for its clients. NineSigma has the largest open global network of solution providers and an extensive database of existing solutions spanning numerous industries and technical disciplines. NineSigma’s online innovation community, NineSights™, is the world’s first open innovation social media destination, connecting innovators of all sizes with resources and relationships to drive growth.

For more information, visit: www.ninesigma.com or www.ninesights.com

Published in NineSigma

Mars One is pleased to announce the conversion of its corporation to a Dutch “stichting,” a not-for-profit foundation whose primary goal is to take humanity to Mars. The first four astronauts are planned to land on Mars in 2023, with four additional crew members arriving every two years thereafter.

Since the launch of its website in June 2012, Mars One has enjoyed a profound, international following. With more than 850,000 unique visitors to the website, Mars One has received thousands of emails. Among those emails were more than one thousand requests from individuals who desire to go to Mars--well before the launch of the Astronaut Selection Program. Furthermore, Mars One is supported by a large groups of advisers and ambassadors, among them an astronaut, a Nobel prize winning physicist and several NASA scientists.

Mars One recognized the potential to embrace this show of global support by conversion to a not-for-profit foundation. Bas Lansdorp, co-founder and President of Mars-One offers, “A foundation more accurately represents how the Mars One team feels about this mission, and how the world has embraced our plan, even in this early stage. We receive so many kind and supportive emails, people offer donations or offer to helpin whatever way they can. The conversion to a foundation represents that going to Mars is something we do as a united world.”

In the first half of 2013 Mars One will launch the Astronaut Selection Program, a search to find the best candidates for the 'next giant leap of mankind'. The search will be global, open to every person from every nation. As a Foundation, Mars One will be the owner of the human outpost on Mars, the simulation bases on Earth, and the employer of the astronauts, both in training here on Earth, and those on Mars.

Arno Wielders, co-founder and technical director of Mars One: “Sending humans to Mars has been my dream for twenty years. Evidently, I am not alone--we have received emails from over fifty countries. People in thirty seven countries have purchased our merchandise, demonstrating their support for Mars One. Regardless of their background, people are positive about this optimistic event that we believe will bring people of Earth a little bit closer together.”

Mars One is already sponsored by companies from all over the world. Now, Mars One is also accepting individual donations to enable people to contribute to the next giant leap of mankind. Donations are applied toward daily operations at Mars One, the Conceptual Design Studies, and preparation for the Astronaut Selection Program.

For more information, visit: www.mars-one.com

Published in Mars One

In January 2013, Mitsui Seiki will open the doors of a new Turbine Technology Center located in the company’s Franklin Lakes, NJ facility.

“Our existing and potential OEM and supply chain customers in the turbo machinery industry will be able to conduct test cuts, apply different processes, experiment with cutting tool designs, and prove out CNC programs,” says Tom Dolan, Vice President. “They will also be able to try different integrated in-process quality control devices and software. The Center’s resources will help them determine the best strategies and solutions for their specific needs in their own factories.”

Likewise Mitsui Seiki will use the Center to further enhance its significant aero and powergen turbine knowledge and applications expertise. Engineers will use the center like a lab to research and develop new, relevant technologies as they become available. The company will also use the Center to refine its own machine designs.

“Our goal is to become our clients’ most responsive source to present, demonstrate, and evaluate new solutions so they can machine their turbine parts more efficiently and effectively,” says Dolan.

The 3000 sq. ft. Mitsui Seiki Turbine Technology Center will have three dedicated 5-axis machining centers that can accommodate small and mid-size turbine components including blades, blisks, and impellers.  Additionally, other related work such as fuel system, disks, vanes, and ancillary parts can be processed. The new Technical Center will be staffed by senior applications engineers with several years of experience in turbine component machining. The company is also in discussion with certain industry and academic collaborators to participate in the Center to contribute to its knowledge base and systems approach in the areas of CAD/CAM, tooling, inspection, and productivity software.

For more information, visit: www.mitsuiseiki.com

Published in Mitsui Seiki

Turning lignin, a plant's structural "glue" and a byproduct of the paper and pulp industry, into something considerably more valuable is driving a research effort headed by Amit Naskar of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In a cover article published in Green Chemistry, the research team describes a process that ultimately transforms the lignin byproduct into a thermoplastic - a polymer that becomes pliable above a specific temperature. Researchers accomplished this by reconstructing larger lignin molecules either through a chemical reaction with formaldehyde or by washing with methanol. Through these simple chemical processes, they created a crosslinked rubber-like material that can also be processed like plastics.

"Our work addresses a pathway to utilize lignin as a sustainable, renewable resource material for synthesis of thermoplastics that are recyclable," said Naskar, a member of the Department of Energy laboratory's Material Science and Technology Division.

Instead of using nearly 50 million tons of lignin byproduct produced annually as a low-cost fuel to power paper and pulp mills, the material can be transformed into a lignin-derived high-value plastic. While the lignin byproduct in raw form is worth just pennies a pound as a fuel, the value can potentially increase by a factor of 10 or more after the conversion.

Naskar noted that earlier work on lignin-based plastics utilized material that was available from pulping industries and was a significantly degraded version of native lignin contained in biomass. This decomposition occurs during harsh chemical treatment of biomass.

"Here, however, we attempted to reconstruct larger lignin molecules by a simple crosslinking chemistry and then used it as a substitute for rigid phase in a formulation that behaves like crosslinked rubbers that can also be processed like plastics," Naskar said.

Crosslinking involves building large lignin molecules by combining smaller molecules where formaldehyde helps to bridge the smaller units by chemical bonding. Naskar envisions the process leading to lower cost gaskets, window channels, irrigation hose, dashboards, car seat foam and a number of other plastic-like products. A similar material can also be made from lignin produced in biorefineries.

For more information, visit: www.ornl.gov

Published in ORNL

Imagine landing on the moon or Mars, putting rocks through a 3-D printer and making something useful – like a needed wrench or replacement part.

"It sounds like science fiction, but now it’s really possible,’’ says Amit Bandyopadhyay, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.

Bandyopadhyay and a group of colleagues recently published a paper in Rapid Prototyping Journal demonstrating how to print parts using materials from the moon.
 
Approached by NASA
 
Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, are well known researchers in the area of three-dimensional printing for creation of bone-like materials for orthopedic implants.

In 2010, researchers from NASA initiated discussion with Bandyopadhyay, asking if the research team might be able to print 3-D objects from moon rock.
 
Because of the tremendous expense of space travel, researchers strive to limit what space ships have to carry. Establishment of a lunar or Martian outpost would require using the materials that are on hand for construction or repairs. That’s where the 3-D fabrication technology might come in.

Three-dimensional fabrication technology, also known as additive manufacturing, allows researchers to produce complex 3-D objects directly from computer-aided design (CAD) models, printing the material layer by layer. In this case, the material is heated using a laser to high temperatures and prints out like melting candle wax to a desired shape.

Simple shapes built
 
To test the idea, NASA researchers provided Bandyopadhyay and Bose with 10 pounds of raw lunar regolith simulant, an imitation moon rock that is used for research purposes.

The WSU researchers were concerned about how the moon rock material - which is made of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and magnesium oxides - would melt. But they found it behaved similarly to silica, and they built a few simple shapes.

The researchers are the first to demonstrate the ability to fabricate parts using the moon-like material. They sent their pieces to NASA.
 
"It doesn’t look fantastic, but you can make something out of it,’’ says Bandyopadhyay.
 
Tailoring composition, geometry
 
Using additive manufacturing, the material could also be tailored, the researchers say. If you want a stronger building material, for instance, you could perhaps use some moon rock with earth-based additives.

"The advantage of additive manufacturing is that you can control the composition as well as the geometry,’’ says Bose.

In the future, the researchers hope to show that the lunar material could be used to do remote repairs.

"It is an exciting science fiction story, but maybe we’ll hear about it in the next few years,’’ says Bandyopadhyay. "As long as you can have additive manufacturing set up, you may be able to scoop up and print whatever you want. It’s not that far-fetched.’’
 
The research was supported by a $750,000 W.M. Keck Foundation grant.

For more information, visit: www.mme.wsu.edu

On November 27, 2012, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute announced its initial request for proposal (RFP) from NAMII members for applied research projects.

The NAMII Project RFP process is open to all organizations as long as they are partnered with a NAMII member and the NAMII member submits the proposal on behalf of that project partnership/collaboration.

The NAMII Project Call RFP is limited to three technical topic areas. Proposals from NAMII members can address one or more technical topic areas, but must address all evaluation criteria.

  • Materials Understanding and Performance: Understanding material properties and characteristics to enable expected performance are key to the wide-scale industry adoption of additive manufacturing. Specific focus areas include development of materials database design for capturing broad sets of test results; design-allowable properties for materials; data access and sharing platform; methods to manage materials variability; and identification of material requirements and gap analysis. All efforts should focus on expediting the transition and qualification of materials and material systems for additive manufacturing to establish a seamless path from materials requirements to process capability.

  • Qualification and Certification: Testing, qualification, and certification methods and systems that enable the rapid deployment of additive manufacturing products are critical to additive manufacturing adoption. Specific focus areas include methods for rapid qualification and certification; innovative technology approach to qualification and certification; leveraging of modeling and simulation; quantification of process variability; identification of variability reduction to increase reliability, process optimization, and rate increases; and certification of suppliers.  All efforts should focus on elimination of barriers and reduction of time to market related to qualification and certification of products.

  • Process Capability and Characterization/Process Control: A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between process parameters and the resulting product will advance additive manufacturing processes to deliver this breakthrough technology. Specific focus areas include process repeatability and throughput improvement; development of algorithms for modeling expected outcomes; improved part quality; and in-situ adaptive control systems.  All efforts should focus on process improvements to encourage adoption of additive manufacturing technology.

For more information, visit: www.namii.org/projects

Published in NAMII

Business Secretary Vince Cable today announced a £60m investment in UK universities to help our most pioneering scientists and engineers create successful businesses from their research, improve industrial collaboration and foster greater entrepreneurship.

The announcement was made, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, at a visit to the London studios of university spin-out company Space Syntax, an SME which uses advanced urban modelling techniques to design better cities and public spaces such as the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square in London and the replanning of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

The funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK’s main funding agency for scientific research. They will award ‘Impact Acceleration Accounts’ ranging from £600,000 to £6m to 31 universities across the UK.

It will help support universities’ best scientists and engineers to deliver greater collaboration with industry, bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace and help them become better entrepreneurs.

The Business Secretary said: "The UK’s scientists are some of the most innovative and creative people in the world, but they need support to take their best ideas through to market. This could be by establishing a successful, technology-driven SME like Space Syntax which I visited today.

"This investment I’m announcing today will help our leading universities become centres of innovation and entrepreneurship, generating commercial success to fuel growth."

The funding will support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition – the 'Valley of death' between a research idea and developing it to a stage where a company or venture capitalist might be interested. It will also allow universities to fund secondments for scientists and engineers to spend time in a business environment: improving their knowledge and skills and returning to the lab with a better understanding of the way companies operate and the challenges they face.

EPSRC chief executive Professor Dave Delpy said: "The research we support is recognised as outstanding on the international stage. These awards aim to make a step change in the impact that has on society: generating new business opportunities which drive economic growth, creating better, more informed, public policy."

They will help companies to engage with research projects at an earlier stage and benefit from research breakthroughs and the fundamental knowledge they generate. The funding will be used to support partnerships with SMEs and larger companies and take some of the risk out of their investment.

For more information, visit: www.epsrc.ac.uk

Published in EPSRC

It is often the case with new military technologies that warfighters need to adjust to their equipment to access needed capabilities. As missions shift, however, and warfighters are required to work in smaller teams and access more remote locations, it is technology that must adapt if it is to remain useful. Desirable features for many new man-portable systems include small size, light weight, minimal power consumption, low cost, ease of use, multi-functionality and, to the extent possible, network friendliness.

DARPA created the Pixel Network for Dynamic Visualization program, or PIXNET, to apply these features to the cameras and sensors used by dismounted warfighters and small combat units for battlefield awareness and threat detection and identification. PIXNET aims to develop helmet-mounted and clip-on camera systems that combine visible, near infrared, and infrared sensors into one system and aggregate the outputs. PIXNET technology would ingest the most useful data points from each component sensor and fuse them into a common, information-rich image that can be viewed on the warfighter’s heads-up display, and potentially be shared across units.

The base technologies DARPA proposes to use already exist and are currently used by warfighters. However, these devices typically have dedicated functionality, operate independently of one another and provide value only to the immediate operator. Through PIXNET, DARPA seeks to fuse the capabilities of these devices into a single multi-band system, thus alleviating physical overburdening of warfighters, and develop a tool that is network-ready, capable of sharing imagery with other warfighters.

“Existing sensor technologies are a good jumping-off point, but PIXNET will require innovations to combine reflective and thermal bands for maximum visibility during the day or night, and then package this technology for maximum portability. What we really need are breakthroughs in aperture design, focal plane arrays, electronics, packaging and materials science,” said Nibir Dhar, DARPA program manager for PIXNET.  “Success will be measured as the minimization of size, weight, power and cost of the system and the maximization of functionality.”

To help boost processing power while minimizing size and energy use, PIXNET sensors will interface wirelessly with an Android-based smart phone for fusing images and for networking among units. Although the primary focus of PIXNET is on sensor development, proposers are instructed to develop whatever apps are necessary to achieve the desired functionality for phone and camera.

In addition to technological innovation, proposers are encouraged to develop plans for transitioning the low-cost camera system into manufacturing. In the case of the helmet-mounted system, DARPA’s preferred cost goal in a manufacturing environment producing 10,000 units per month is $3,300 per unit.

For more information, visit: www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=6bca8b710332b6467f92fcf717d68875&tab=core&_cview=0

Published in DARPA

NASA has released a Request for Information (RFI) to explore the potential interest and use of its unique facilities, labs and technical expertise for structural testing at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The facilities and capabilities could support commercial, government and academic activities, and possibly lead to new technology developments.

The RFI is seeking responses from prospective partners interested in using Johnson's extensive testing facilities to provide high-performance solutions for a variety of structural testing in diverse industries, including aerospace. These solutions can help businesses meet their challenges by helping engineers develop deeper insight in their materials and building processes.

Structure testing capabilities at Johnson include a full range of end-to-end test labs and tools, and the expertise of NASA scientists and engineers in analyzing data and operations. Core areas include material properties and advanced manufacturing techniques research, as well as rapid prototyping or fabrication of aircraft, spaceflight vehicle systems and industrial structures.

Johnson's structural analyses are able to evaluate many different types of designs and can be conducted with environmental conditioning to analyze composites in extreme environments and verify design predictions that may support industry goals.

New partnerships using Johnson structural testing facilities and expertise would be consistent with NASA's missions and are expected to be on a reimbursable basis.

For information about the RFI, visit: go.nasa.gov/OC0Yit

Published in NASA

The World Technology Network (WTN) announced that both the Wyss Institute and Wyss Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., won awards in the biotechnology category. The awards honor the world's most significant innovators in science and technology who are "creating the 21st century" -- and the Wyss Institute made an impressive showing, having won in two separate categories: one for an organization, and one for an individual.

The awards were announced during a black-tie ceremony at the Time & Life Building in New York City by the WTN in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN, Science/AAAS, and Technology Review. The theme of the event was "Nothing Will Ever Be the Same Again" -- a nod to the groundbreaking work being undertaken by the nominees, who were selected by the winners and finalists from previous awards through an intensive, global process lasting many months.

Last year, Wyss Core Faculty member James J. Collins, Ph.D., won the WTN award in the biotechnology category in recognition of his work in synthetic biology and antibiotic drug discovery.

In total, there were 50 corporate Finalists (in 10 categories) and 100 individual Finalists (in 20 categories). The nominees and winners become part of a global community of people that has been growing since 2000 who "help create our collective future and change our world," says James Clark, founder and chairman of the WTN.

In addition to being the Wyss Institute's founding director, Ingber is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and in the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He also leads the Biomimetic Microsystems Platform at the Wyss Institute. Collins also holds the William F. Warren Distinguished Professorship at Boston University, where he is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator as well as the co-director and co-founder of the Center for BioDynamics. Collins also leads the Anticipatory Medical & Biomolecular Devices Platform at the Wyss Institute.

For more information, visit: wtn.net/summit2012/winners.php

Published in Harvard

In the macro world, it's easy to see what happens when a bullet hits an object. But what happens at the nanoscale with very tiny bullets?

A Rice University lab, in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, decided to find out by creating the nanoscale target materials, the microscale ammo and even the method for firing them.

In the process, they gathered a surprising amount of information about how materials called block copolymers dissipate the strain of sudden impact.

The goal of researchers is to find novel ways to make materials more impervious to deformation or failure for stronger and lighter body armor, jet engine turbine blades for aircraft, and for cladding to protect spacecraft and satellites from micrometeorites and space junk. Their work was detailed in the online journal Nature Communications.

The group was led by Rice materials scientist Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Rice's George R. Brown School of Engineering, and Rice research scientist and lead author Jae-Hwang Lee.

The researchers were inspired by their observations in macroscopic ballistic tests in which a complex multiblock copolymer polyurethane material showed the ability to not only stop a 9 mm bullet but also seal the entryway behind it.

"The polymer has actually arrested the bullet and sealed it," Thomas said, holding a hockey puck-sized piece of clear plastic with three bullets firmly embedded. "There's no macroscopic damage; the material hasn't failed; it hasn't cracked. You can still see through it. This would be a great ballistic windshield material.

"We want to find out why this polyurethane works the way it does. Theoretically, no one understood why this particular kind of material – which has nanoscale features of glassy and rubbery domains – would be so good at dissipating energy," he said.

One problem, Thomas said, is that cutting the polymer to analyze it on the nanoscale "would take days." The researchers sought a model material that would react similarly at the nanoscale and could be analyzed much faster. They found one in a polystyrene-polydimethylsiloxane diblock-copolymer. The material self-assembles into alternating 20-nanometer layers of glassy and rubbery polymers. Under a scanning electron microscope, it looks like corduroy; after the test, the disruption pattern from impact can be clearly seen.

The results showed several expected deformation mechanisms and the unexpected result that for sufficiently high velocities, the layered material melted into a homogeneous liquid that seemed to help arrest the projectile and, like the polymer, seal its entry path. The copolymer also behaved differently depending on where the spheres hit. The material showed the best ability to dissipate the energy of impact when spheres were fired perpendicular to the layers, Thomas said.

Testing their ideas took special equipment. The research team came up with a miniaturized test method, dubbed the laser-induced projectile impact test (LIPIT), that uses a laser pulse to fire glass spheres about 3 microns in diameter. The spheres sit on one side of a thin absorbing film facing the target. When a pulse hits the film, the energy causes it to vaporize and the spheres to fly off, hitting speeds between .5 and 5 kilometers per second. Since the kinetic energy scales with velocity squared, the factor of 10 in speed translates to a factor of 100 in impact energy, Thomas said.

Lee calculated the impact in real-world terms: The spheres strike their target 2,000 times faster than an apple falling one meter hits the ground, but with a million times less force. However, because the sphere's impact area is so concentrated, the impact energy is more than 760 times greater. That leaves a mark, he said.

The team tested their materials in two ways: horizontally, with the impact perpendicular to the micro grain, and vertically, straight into the layered edges. They found the horizontal material best at stopping projectiles, perhaps because the layers reflect part of the incident shock wave. Beyond the melt zone in front of the projectile, the layers showed the ability to deform without breaking, which led to improved energy absorption.

"After the impact we can go in and cross-section the structure and see how deep the bullet got, and see what happened to these nice parallel layers," Thomas said. "They tell the story of the evolution of penetration of the projectile and help us understand what mechanisms, at the nanoscale, may be taking place in order for this to be such a great, high-performance, lightweight protection material."

Thomas would like to extend LIPIT testing to other lightweight, nanostructured materials like boron nitride, carbon nanotube-reinforced composites and graphite and graphene-based materials. The ultimate goal, he said, is to accelerate the design of metamaterials with precise control of their nano- and microstructures for a variety of applications.

Co-authors of the paper are graduate students David Veysset, Jonathan Singer, Gagan Saini and Keith Nelson at MIT; Markus Retsch of MIT and the University of Bayreuth, Germany; and Tomas Pezeril of MIT and the Université du Maine, Le Mans, France.

The research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office.

Published in Rice University

MSC Software Corporation announced that Stanford University is using MSC Nastran and Marc to conduct a groundbreaking study on the testing and analysis of complex composite materials. The goals of the study are to reduce extensive and expensive testing programs, optimize the design of testing configurations and redefine structural deformation and failure processes. The sophisticated analysis capabilities of MSC simulation solutions are being used to predict the failure characteristics of heterogeneous composite materials to a greater degree and explore the possibilities of further innovation.

Traditional modeling of heterogeneous composite materials is almost always based on some degree of homogenization, taking materials with diverse characteristics and modeling them for evaluation based on materials with similar characteristics. Professor Tsai, Professor Research Emeritus in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department at Stanford University, and his team are using Mesomechanics to recognize local heterogeneity of composite laminates to build more accurate 2D shells and 3D solid models. Specialized composite analysis capabilities within MSC Nastran and Marc address the failure characteristics of the models. Preliminary results of the new method have been positive when it was recently applied to the novel bi-angle NCF (non crimp fabric) tape. Bi-angle NCF is a revolutionary lightweight material with strength equal to carbon materials and up to 30% lighter. The orientation of layers that makes BI-angle NCF unique was modeled, efficiently pre-processed, and analyzed with MSC's simulation solutions to optimize the manufacturing process.

"We have found that MSC Software's solutions have the combination of technical depth and ease of use," said Professor Tsai. "They made our challenge solvable. We are very pleased to be able to learn more about our problem and will continue to explore next steps."

"The need for lighter weight and stronger materials that have predictable behaviors is growing dramatically as a result of the greater demands for improved vehicle fuel efficiency and safety," said Dominic Gallello, President & CEO of MSC Software. "Dr. Tsai has been a pioneer in this field and we are delighted to collaborate with him in this important project."

With recent advancements in heterogeneous materials, it is becoming more critical to have physical and geometric models that better represent these complex materials. When analyzed, these models would provide a far more accurate evaluation of how heterogeneous composite materials will behave in real-life environments.

Professor Stephen W. Tsai is a Professor Research Emeritus in the Aeronautics and Astronautics department at Stanford University. He holds both a B.E. degree and D. Eng. Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Yale University. Professor Tsai is also part of the Stanford University Structures and Composites Laboratory, and his research interests include the process and product development of composite materials that leads to improved design practice and commercialization. He has written two introductory texts on composite materials and two books on composites design and is known for the pioneering effort in promoting the use of spreadsheets as a design tool. He is also a member of the Nation Academy of Engineering, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, and the Society of Aerospace Materials and Process Engineers and is an active participant in the International Conference on Composite Materials.

MSC Software is one of the ten original software companies and the worldwide leader in multidiscipline simulation. As a trusted partner, MSC Software helps companies improve quality, save time, and reduce costs associated with design and test of manufactured products. Academic institutions, researchers, and students employ MSC's technology to expand individual knowledge as well as expand the horizon of simulation. MSC Software employs 1,100 professionals in 20 countries.

For more information, visit: www.mscsoftware.com

Published in MSC Software

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory launched a new era of scientific supercomputing today with Titan, a system capable of churning through more than 20,000 trillion calculations each second—or 20 petaflops—by employing a family of processors called graphic processing units first created for computer gaming. Titan will be 10 times more powerful than ORNL's last world-leading system, Jaguar, while overcoming power and space limitations inherent in the previous generation of high-performance computers.

Titan, which is supported by the Department of Energy, will provide unprecedented computing power for research in energy, climate change, efficient engines, materials and other disciplines and pave the way for a wide range of achievements in science and technology.

The Cray XK7 system contains 18,688 nodes, with each holding a 16-core AMD Opteron 6274 processor and an NVIDIA Tesla K20 graphics processing unit (GPU) accelerator. Titan also has more than 700 terabytes of memory. The combination of central processing units, the traditional foundation of high-performance computers, and more recent GPUs will allow Titan to occupy the same space as its Jaguar predecessor while using only marginally more electricity.

"One challenge in supercomputers today is power consumption," said Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. "Combining GPUs and CPUs in a single system requires less power than CPUs alone and is a responsible move toward lowering our carbon footprint. Titan will provide unprecedented computing power for research in energy, climate change, materials and other disciplines to enable scientific leadership."

Because they handle hundreds of calculations simultaneously, GPUs can go through many more than CPUs in a given time. By relying on its 299,008 CPU cores to guide simulations and allowing its new NVIDIA GPUs to do the heavy lifting, Titan will enable researchers to run scientific calculations with greater speed and accuracy.

"Titan will allow scientists to simulate physical systems more realistically and in far greater detail," said James Hack, director of ORNL's National Center for Computational Sciences. "The improvements in simulation fidelity will accelerate progress in a wide range of research areas such as alternative energy and energy efficiency, the identification and development of novel and useful materials and the opportunity for more advanced climate projections."

Titan will be open to select projects while ORNL and Cray work through the process for final system acceptance. The lion's share of access to Titan in the coming year will come from the Department of Energy's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program, better known as INCITE.

Researchers have been preparing for Titan and its hybrid architecture for the past two years, with many ready to make the most of the system on day one. Among the flagship scientific applications on Titan:

Materials Science The magnetic properties of materials hold the key to major advances in technology. The application WL-LSMS provides a nanoscale analysis of important materials such as steels, iron-nickel alloys and advanced permanent magnets that will help drive future electric motors and generators. Titan will allow researchers to improve the calculations of a material's magnetic states as they vary by temperature.

"The order-of-magnitude increase in computational power available with Titan will allow us to investigate even more realistic models with better accuracy," noted ORNL researcher and WL-LSMS developer Markus Eisenbach.

Combustion The S3D application models the underlying turbulent combustion of fuels in an internal combustion engine. This line of research is critical to the American energy economy, given that three-quarters of the fossil fuel used in the United States goes to powering cars and trucks, which produce one-quarter of the country's greenhouse gases.

Titan will allow researchers to model large-molecule hydrocarbon fuels such as the gasoline surrogate isooctane; commercially important oxygenated alcohols such as ethanol and butanol; and biofuel surrogates that blend methyl butanoate, methyl decanoate and n-heptane.

"In particular, these simulations will enable us to understand the complexities associated with strong coupling between fuel chemistry and turbulence at low preignition temperatures," noted team member Jacqueline Chen of Sandia National Laboratories. "These complexities pose challenges, but also opportunities, as the strong sensitivities to both the fuel chemistry and to the fluid flows provide multiple control options which may lead to the design of a high-efficiency, low-emission, optimally combined engine-fuel system."

Nuclear Energy Nuclear researchers use the Denovo application to, among other things, model the behavior of neutrons in a nuclear power reactor. America's aging nuclear power plants provide about a fifth of the country's electricity, and Denovo will help them extend their operating lives while ensuring safety. Titan will allow Denovo to simulate a fuel rod through one round of use in a reactor core in 13 hours; this job took 60 hours on the Jaguar system.

Climate Change The Community Atmosphere Model-Spectral Element simulates long-term global climate. Improved atmospheric modeling under Titan will help researchers better understand future air quality as well as the effect of particles suspended in the air.

Using a grid of 14-kilometer cells, the new system will be able to simulate from one to five years per day of computing time, up from the three months or so that Jaguar was able to churn through in a day.

"As scientists are asked to answer not only whether the climate is changing but where and how, the workload for global climate models must grow dramatically," noted CAM-SE team member Kate Evans of ORNL. "Titan will help us address the complexity that will be required in such models."

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

For more information, visit: www.olcf.ornl.gov/titan

Published in ORNL

Morgan Technical Ceramics (MTC) announces that it has been awarded a contract to participate in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project with the Biomimetic Microelectronics Systems Centers at the University of Southern California (BMES-USC). The project will develop biocompatible hermetic coatings, high density ceramic feed-throughs, and hermeticity test chips for biomedical microsystems applications. The aim of the research is to develop technology that will enable implanted electronics used in medical devices and other neural stimulation-based prostheses to operate in the body for decades. MTC’s New Bedford, MA site will develop the feed-through, while the Allentown, PA site will apply the special diamond-like coating (DLC) to hermetically seal prosthetic devices for protection from body fluids.

The project will provide a robust hermetic barrier to protect medical implantable electronics, enable high-density, high lead count hermetic feed-throughs to connect to advanced neural interfaces, and provide novel devices and circuits for integrity monitoring.
 
Current biomedical implants only need a few signal contacts with tissue, while advanced neural prostheses under development may need as many as a thousand, requiring a fundamentally different approach for feed-throughs and encapsulation. The work will include using diamond-like carbon technology from MTC’s Allentown site to provide impermeable and biocompatible insulating coatings, and technology for high density, and high lead count feed-throughs from MTC New Bedford to enable parallel connection to the nervous system. A novel hermetic coating test chip is being developed by BMES-USC, and will include both passive and active sensors to investigate contamination, moisture, and corrosion.

“MTC is proud to be part of this high level, innovative research to help truly miniaturize implantable devices” said Chris Vaillancourt, Medical Products Business Unit Manager. “By dramatically reducing feed-through size while increasing the number of leads, and improving coating longevity and reliability, the innovative research will extend neuromodulation’s promise.”

The project will also directly benefit several Department of Defense-funded DARPA projects, including Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET), which is investigating stimulation-based neural prostheses; Restorative Encoding Memory Integration Neural Device (REMIND), which seeks to restore memory through devices programmed to bypass injured regions of the brain; and Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP3), which has developed advanced prosthetic arms that can be controlled via electronic brain implants.

For more information, visit: bmes-erc.usc.edu or www.morgantechnicalceramics.com

NASA is seeking applications from graduate students for the agency's Space Technology Research Fellowships. Applications will be accepted from students pursuing or planning to pursue master's or doctoral degrees in relevant space technology disciplines at accredited U.S. universities. The fellowship awards, worth as much as $68,000 per year, will coincide with the start of the fall 2013 term.

The fellowships will sponsor U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA's strategic space technology objectives through their studies. To date, NASA has awarded these prestigious fellowships to 128 students from 50 universities and across 26 states and one U.S. territory.

"NASA's Space Technology Program is building, testing and flying the technologies required for NASA's missions of tomorrow," said Michael Gazarik, director of the Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "With new technologies and innovation, astronauts will be able to travel safely beyond low Earth orbit and new science missions will make amazing discoveries about our universe. These fellowships will help create the next generation of highly skilled workers needed for NASA's and our nation's future, while motivating careers in science and technology that will lead to sustainable, high-tech jobs while America out-innovates the world."

Sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Program, the continuing goal of the fellowships is to provide the nation with a pipeline of highly skilled researchers and technologists to improve U.S. technological competitiveness. Fellows will perform innovative space technology research while building the skills necessary to become future leaders.

The deadline for submitting applications is Dec. 4.

For more information or to submit applications, visit: go.usa.gov/YDJW

Published in NASA

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to announce that its Aerospace Research Central (ARC) electronic database is now available to users. The site was produced in partnership with Atypon®, a leading provider of software to the scientific and scholarly publishing industry.

ARC offers users access to over four decades of aerospace research. The platform’s robust functionality gives users powerful search capabilities through all of AIAA’s books, conference proceedings, and journal articles; offers streamlined research capabilities, including the ability to download citations and bundle content based on topic disciplines; and gives users early access to e-first publications ahead of print. Users will also be able to tailor the platform’s functionality to seek out those things which are most relevant to their personal interests, greatly streamlining the research process.

“With ARC, we will now be able to access, anytime and anywhere, more than 75 years of aerospace materials from the AIAA Electronic Library and the AIAA e-Book Library,” said Vigor Yang, vice-president of publications for AIAA. Yang continued: “Such service will move us in the direction we all want to go - towards easier, dependable access of knowledge important to our field.”

Audrey Melkin, Atypon’s Director of Business Development, stated: “We’re proud to have collaborated with AIAA to create such a great content experience for contributors, readers, and librarians. Being able to seamlessly navigate all of AIAA’s content types has resulted in a greatly improved resource for the entire aerospace sector.”

AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. With more than 35,000 individual members worldwide, and nearly 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense.

For more information, visit: arc.aiaa.org

Published in AIAA

A 7,000 year old technique, known as Egyptian Paste (also known as Faience), could offer a potential process and material for use in the latest 3D printing techniques of ceramics, according to researchers at UWE Bristol.

Professor Stephen Hoskins, Director of UWE's Centre for Fine Print Research and David Huson, Research Fellow, have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC to undertake a major investigation into a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic, inspired by ancient Egyptian Faience ceramic techniques. The process they aim to develop would enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a ceramic material which can be glazed and vitrified in one firing.

The researchers believe that it possible to create a contemporary 3D printable, once-fired, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience.

Faience was first used in the 5th Millennium BC and was the first glazed ceramic material invented by man. Faience was not made from clay (but instead composed of quartz and alkali fluxes) and is distinct from Italian Faience or Majolica, which is a tin, glazed earthenware. (The earliest Faience is invariably blue or green, exhibiting the full range of shades between them, and the colouring material was usually copper). It is the self-glazing properties of Faience that are of interest for this research project.

Current research in the field of 3D printing concentrates on creating functional materials to form physical models. The materials currently used in the 3D printing process, in which layers are added to build up a 3D form, are commonly: UV polymer resins, hot melted 'abs' plastic and inkjet binder or laser sintered, powder materials. These techniques have previously been known as rapid prototyping (RP). With the advent of better materials and equipment some RP of real materials is now possible. These processes are increasingly being referred to as solid 'free-form fabrication' (SFF) or additive layer manufacture. The UWE research team have focused previously on producing a functional, printable clay body.

This three-year research project will investigate three methods of glazing used by the ancient Egyptians: 'application glazing', similar to modern glazing methods; 'efflorescent glazing' which uses water-soluble salts; and 'cementation glazing', a technique where the object is buried in a glazing powder in a protective casing, then fired.These techniques will be used as a basis for developing contemporary printable alternatives

Professor Hoskins explains, “It is fascinating to think that some of these ancient processes, in fact the very first glazed ceramics ever created by humans, could have relevance to the advanced printing technology of today. We hope to create a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic which only requires one firing from conception to completion rather than the usual two. This would be a radical step-forward in the development of 3D printing technologies. As part of the project we will undertake case studies of craft, design and fine art practitioners to contribute to the project, so that our work reflects the knowledge and understanding of artists and reflects the way in which artists work.”

The project includes funding for a three-year full-time PhD bursary to research a further method used by the Egyptians, investigating coloured 'frit', a substance used in glazing and enamels. This student will research this method, investigating the use of coloured frits and oxides to try and create as full a colour range as possible. Once developed, this body will be used to create a ceramic extrusion paste that can be printed with a low-cost 3D printer. A programme of work will be undertaken to determine the best rates of deposition, the inclusion of flocculants and methods of drying through heat whilst printing.

This project offers the theoretical possibility of a printed, single fired, glazed ceramic object - something that is impossible with current technology.

For more information, visit: www.ahrc.ac.uk/News-and-Events/Watch-and-Listen/Pages/3D-Printing-in-Ceramics.aspx

Published in UWE Bristol

This robot is made of silicone. It can walk, change color and light up in the dark. It can even change temperature. And it can do all of this for less than $100. In the future, robots like this might be made for just a few dollars.  

In a development to be reported in the August 17 issue of Science, researchers led by Drs. George Whitesides and Stephen Morin at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering demonstrated that microfluidic channels in soft robots enable functions including actuation, camouflage, display, fluid transport and temperature regulation. The work is being performed under DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program.

Why does this matter to the Department of Defense? DARPA foresees robots of many shapes and sizes contributing to a wide range of future defense missions, but robotics is still a young field that has focused much of its attention so far on complex hardware. Consequently, the costs associated with robotics are typically very high. What DARPA has achieved with silicone-based soft robots is development of a very low cost manufacturing method that uses molds. By introducing narrow channels into the molds through which air and various types of fluids can be pumped, a robot can be made to change its color, contrast, apparent shape and temperature to blend with its environment, glow through chemiluminescence, and most importantly, achieve actuation, or movement, through pneumatic pressurization and inflation of the channels. The combination of low cost and increased capabilities means DARPA has removed one of the major obstacles to greater DoD adoption of robot technology.  

Gill Pratt, the DARPA program manager for M3, put the achievement in context: “DARPA is developing a suite of robots that draw inspiration from the ingenuity and efficiency of nature. For defense applications, ingenuity and efficiency are not enough—robotic systems must also be cost effective. This novel robot is a significant advance towards achieving all three goals.”

In the video above, a soft robot walks onto a bed of rocks and is filled with fluid to match the color of the rocks and break up the robot’s shape. The robot moves at a speed of approximately 40 meters per hour; absent the colored fluid, it can move at approximately 67 meters per hour. Future research will focus on smoothing the movements; however, speed is less important than the robot’s flexibility. Soft robots are useful because they are resilient and can maneuver through very constrained spaces.

For this demonstration, the researchers used tethers to attach the control system and pump pressurized gases and liquids into the robot. Tethered operation reduces the size and weight of such robots by leaving power sources and pumps off-board, but future prototypes could incorporate that equipment in a self-contained system. At a pumping rate of 2.25 milliliters per minute, color change in the robot required 30 seconds. Once filled, the color layers require no power to sustain the color.

Aside from their potential tactical value, soft robots with microfluidic channels could also have medical applications. The devices could simulate fluid vessels and muscle motion for realistic modeling or training, and may be used in prosthetic technology.

For more information, visit: www.darpa.mil

Published in DARPA

The Department of Energy today announced that 19 transformative new projects will receive a total of $43 million in funding from the Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to leverage the nation’s brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough energy storage technologies and support promising small businesses. These projects are supported through two new ARPA-E programs -- Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) – and will focus on innovations in battery management and storage to advance electric vehicle technologies, help improve the efficiency and reliability of the electrical grid and provide important energy security benefits to America’s armed forces.

“This latest round of ARPA-E projects seek to address the remaining challenges in energy storage technologies, which could revolutionize the way Americans store and use energy in electric vehicles, the grid and beyond, while also potentially improving the access to energy for the U.S. military at forward operating bases in remote areas,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “These cutting-edge projects could transform our energy infrastructure, dramatically reduce our reliance on imported oil and increase American energy security.”

Twelve research projects are receiving $30 million in funding under the AMPED program, which aims to develop advanced sensing and control technologies that could dramatically improve and provide new innovations in safety, performance, and lifetime for grid-scale and vehicle batteries. Unlike other Department of Energy efforts to push the frontiers of battery chemistry, AMPED is focused on maximizing the potential of existing battery chemistries. These innovations will help reduce costs and improve the performance of next generation storage technologies, which could be applied in both plug-in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. For example, Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, will develop an optical sensor to monitor the internal environment of a lithium-ion battery in real-time.

ARPA-E is also announcing a total of $13 million for seven projects to enterprising small businesses to pursue cutting-edge energy storage developments for stationary power and electric vehicles.  These projects will develop new innovative battery chemistries and battery designs, continuing ARPA-E’s funding for storage technologies.  These awards are part of the larger Department-wide Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

For more information, visit: arpa-e.energy.gov/Portals/0/Documents/Projects/AMPED_SBIR_Project%20Descriptions_FINAL_8%201%2012.pdf

Published in Department of Energy

Beginning July 31, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will be accepting ideas and pitches for technology projects and displays for the 2012 Naval Science and Technology (S&T) Partnership Conference.

Registered attendees now can request one-on-one Pitch a Principal meetings with ONR decision makers to discuss concepts for collaboration and technology development. To participate, interested presenters must complete an online form located on the conference website by Sept. 14. Submissions only will be accepted online, and all applicants will be notified by Sept. 28 with the status of their submissions. Those with accepted abstracts will be contacted to schedule in-person meetings with a relevant ONR principal.

Pitch a Principal is a signature event at the biennial conference. The meetings provide an opportunity for members of outside organizations to speak candidly and privately with ONR subject matter experts and research portfolio managers about S&T initiatives.

Requests should be centered on one of the conference's nine topical areas: autonomy and unmanned systems; assure access to maritime battle space; information dominance; expeditionary and irregular warfare; power projection and integrated defense; platform design and survivability; power and energy; warfighter performance; and total ownership cost.

Each pitch will be reviewed by ONR program officers. Submitted abstracts with the most merit, best chance of success or closest alignment with ONR objectives and current initiatives will be selected for follow up.

Additionally, attendees can submit concepts for display at the conference's poster session. Submissions must be made online by Sept. 14, and all applicants will be contacted regarding their requests by Sept. 28. Those that are accepted will be invited to showcase their posters in the exhibit hall on the evening of Oct. 22.

The event will be held Oct. 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.

For more information, visit: www.onr.navy.mil/en/Conference-Event-ONR/science-technology-partnership.aspx

Published in Navy

NASA's Space Technology Program is turning science fiction into science fact. The program has selected 28 proposals for study under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program.

Eighteen of these advanced concept proposals were categorized as Phase I and 10 as Phase II. They were selected based on their potential to transform future aerospace missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter and improve current approaches to launching, building and operating aerospace systems.

The selected proposals include a broad range of imaginative concepts, including a submarine glider to explore the ice-covered ocean of Europa, an air purification system with no moving parts, and a system that could use in situ lunar regolith to autonomously build concrete structures on the moon.

"These selections represent the best and most creative new ideas for future technologies that have the potential to radically improve how NASA missions explore new frontiers," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, NASA is taking the long-term view of technological investment and the advancement that is essential for accomplishing our missions. We are inventing the ways in which next-generation aircraft and spacecraft will change the world and inspiring Americans to take bold steps."

NIAC Phase I awards of approximately $100,000 for one year enable proposers to explore basic feasibility and properties of a potential breakthrough concept. NIAC Phase II awards of as much as $500,000 for two years help further develop the most successful Phase I concepts and analyze their potential to enable new or radically improved future NASA missions and potential applications with benefits for industry and society.

"We're excited to be launching Phase II, allowing the 2012 NIAC portfolio to feature an exciting combination of new ideas and continued development of last year's Phase I concepts," said Jay Falker, NIAC program executive at NASA Headquarters.

NASA solicited visionary, long-term concepts for technological maturation based on their potential value to NASA's future space missions and operational needs. These projects were chosen through a peer-review process that evaluated their innovation and how technically viable they are. All are very early in development -- 10 years or longer from use on a mission.

NASA's early investment and partnership with creative scientists, engineers, and citizen inventors from across the nation will provide technological dividends and help maintain America's leadership in the global technology economy.

The portfolio of diverse and innovative ideas selected for NIAC awards represent multiple technology areas, including power, propulsion, structures, and avionics, as identified in NASA's Space Technology Roadmaps. The roadmaps provide technology paths needed to meet NASA's strategic goals.

NIAC is part of NASA's Space Technology Program, which is innovating, developing, testing, and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. These competitively-awarded projects are creating new technological solutions for NASA and our nation's future.

For more information, visit: www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/niac/niac_2012_phaseIandII_awards.html

Published in NASA

Innovation requires latitude to experiment and freedom to explore without fear of failure. Strategic innovation requires experimentation with a purpose. Every year since 2006, DARPA has awarded grants to promising academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians to foster strategic innovation in a defense context and, in the process, enhance basic research at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Under the auspices of the Young Faculty Awards (YFA) program, DARPA hopes to develop the next generation of researchers in key defense-related disciplines and encourage them to focus a significant portion of their careers on defense issues.

This year DARPA welcomes 51 recipients, hailing from 18 states and 34 academic institutions, who will each apply $300,000 grants over two years to a wide spectrum of basic research in areas spanning physical sciences, materials, mathematics and biology. Though the sponsored research is not expected to feed directly into DARPA programs, faculty and projects are selected in part for their potential to seed future breakthroughs in defense-related research areas. In fact, members of the 2006-2010 YFA classes participate in 27 recent or ongoing DARPA programs.

The leeway granted to YFA recipients to pursue innovative ideas is given in recognition of the fact that technological breakthroughs often result from cross-collaboration among disciplines and operating outside of commonly accepted disciplinary boundaries. YFA is designed to support that business model.

Ideas nurtured through YFA have shaped research in six DARPA programs to date, on top of their contributions to advancing basic science. At the same time, grant recipients experience professional benefits in their academic careers.

A record 560 researchers applied to YFA in 2012, marking a 38% increase over the 2011 applicant pool; applicants represented 46 states and territories, and 150 universities. DARPA selected 51 applicants to receive grants totaling approximately $15.3 million, representing the largest class of awardees since the program began. Each grant recipient will receive approximately $150,000 per year for two years.

A complete list of the 2012 Young Faculty Award recipients and research topics is available at: go.usa.gov/Gxc

Published in DARPA

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in males and the second most common in humans. Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) imaging is the gold-standard guide for biopsies to detect prostate cancer and for brachytherapy treatment, where radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate close to tumors. However, the limited resolution of TRUS imaging restricts the biopsy detection rate to about 25 percent and renders the brachytherapy seeds almost invisible, making it difficult to implant them accurately.

Observing prostate biopsies and brachytherapy under the superior image quality of magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) would substantially improve diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. MRI lets doctors see potential tumors so they can more accurately determine where to take biopsy samples or deliver treatment. MRI also shows the implanted seeds in its images, enabling more accurate placement and a greater chance of eliminating the cancer with less damage to healthy tissues.

Better Than Metal

But the confined space and powerful magnetic fields (about 100,000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field) inside an MRI system create major challenges in accurately placing needles. Steel and other ferrous materials are unsuitable because the MRI’s powerful magnets would attract them. Even nonferrous metals must be kept to a minimum because electromagnetic fields inside an MRI generate eddy currents that could produce excessive heat or distort the imaging. As a result, traditional sensors, actuators and materials that are suitable for a needle-placement robot will not function in this environment.

A team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) addressed this challenge by designing and building an MRI-compatible needle-placement robot made mostly of plastic with a few nonferrous metal components. The robot consists of a 3-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) Cartesian positioning module to align a needle, and a 3-DOF needle-driver module to place the needle and deliver therapy. Ceramic piezoelectric motors and custom shielded, low-noise drive electronics actuate the robot.

“In early versions, we produced the robot by machining various plastic materials,” said Gregory Fischer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and robotics engineering at WPI. “The cost and time involved in producing these parts was high, which was a problem since it was clear we would need to produce many prototypes in order to perfect the design. Machining also limited our design flexibility because we had to be concerned with how the part would be fixtured during machining, and it restricted the designs to those that were easily machinable.”

Design Flexibility

So instead of machining, WPI chose additive manufacturing. Parts with complex geometry, which constitute the vast majority of the robot, are made with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM technology is an additive manufacturing process that builds plastic parts layer by layer, using data from CAD files. Most of the parts are made with ABS plastic. Parts that could come into contact with the patient are made of ULTEM 9085 because of its biocompatibility. Parts with simpler planar geometries are produced by laser cutting. Plastic bearings and non-ferrous linear guides are off-the-shelf components.

“FDM dramatically reduced both the cost and time involved in making these components while the additive manufacturing process provides nearly unlimited design flexibility. We see this approach less as rapid prototyping and more as a method of flexible manufacturing,” Fischer said. “This new approach has the potential to improve the biopsy detection rate and also improve the performance of brachytherapy.” The needle-placement robot is now gearing up for clinical trials with Johns Hopkins University.

For more information, visit: aimlab.wpi.edu

Published in Stratasys

Imagine being able to design a new aircraft engine part on a computer, and then being able to print it. Not the design – the actual part. And not just a lightweight, nonfunctional model, but an actual working part to be installed in an engine.

The University of Dayton Research Institute was awarded $3 million from the Ohio Third Frontier to provide specialized materials for use in additive manufacturing – the science of using computer printers to create three-dimensional, functional objects. The University of Dayton Research Institute will work with program partners, Stratasys of Eden Prairie, Minn., and PolyOne and Rapid Prototype Plus Manufacturing Inc. (RP+M) of Avon Lake, Ohio, to develop aircraft-engine components for GE Aviation – who also collaborated on the program proposal – as well as parts and components for ATK Aerospace Structures, Boeing, Goodrich, Honda, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

While traditional paper printers use a moving toner cartridge head to form lines of text, adding row upon row of toner as the paper moves through the printer, 3-D printing works much the same way. Instead of toner, however, a free-moving printer head precisely deposits layer upon layer of plastic or other material to create a solid object from the bottom up.

3-D printing technology has existed for about 20 years, but additive manufacturing in its current form is only about five years old, said Brian Rice, head of the Research Institute's Multi-Scale Composites and Polymers Division and program lead for the Third Frontier-funded Advanced Materials for Additive Manufacturing Maturation program.

"The difference is that 3-D printing is known in the industry as being used for nonfunctional prototypes or models, while additive manufacturing is being used to create usable parts for industries such as aerospace, energy, medical and consumer products," Rice said.

Additive manufacturing, which made headlines this month in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and was named number one in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine's May list of "Top Technologies to Watch," is a rapidly growing manufacturing technology being touted for its cost savings and waste reduction. By 2015, the sale of additive manufacturing products and services worldwide is expected to grow to $3.7 billion from $1.71 billion in 2011, according to independent consultants Wohlers Associates.

There are a number of advantages to additive manufacturing over traditional manufacturing, such as injection molding or machining, Rice said.

"Cost savings is a major benefit, because there are no molds or tooling needed to fabricate parts. With traditional manufacturing, every time you want to make even a slight change to the design of what you are making, you have to retool or make an entirely new mold, and that gets very expensive. With additive manufacturing, you can change your design as often as you want simply by changing the design on your computer file. "You can't make complex parts with injection molding," Rice added. "And because you can print an entire part in one piece with additive manufacturing, instead of welding or attaching separate components together as in traditional manufacturing, the finished part is stronger."

Additive manufacturing holds additional benefits, said Jeff DeGrange, vice-president of Stratasys, which owns an industrial line of additive manufacturing machines that will be used to print components for end users.

"It's better for the environment because it reduces waste," DeGrange said. "With additive manufacturing, you only use as much material as you need for the part you're printing. But with machining, you're shaping objects by removing material from a larger block until you have the desired form, so there is a good bit of wasted material."

Additive manufacturing eliminates the need for bolts, screws and welding and, in some cases, reinforced polymers can be used to replace heavier materials, DeGrange added.

"Lighter parts mean greater fuel efficiency in vehicles and aircraft that use them. Another advantage is the cost savings that comes from a print-as-needed process, because you don't need to ship parts or find a place to warehouse them," he said.

3-D printers can use polymer, metal or ceramic feedstock, but our focus will be on polymers, which is already a major manufacturing industry in Ohio, according to Rice.

"UDRI has developed a highly specialized nanomaterial that will reinforce the polymer feedstock, giving the finished product greater strength and stiffness than nonreinforced polymer. It will also make the polymer electrically conductive," he said.

PolyOne will scale-up the polymer feedstock needed for mass manufacturing, Stratasys will support the inclusion of new materials in their additive manufacturing systems, and RP+M will use its expertise in additive parts manufacturing to work with Stratasys to print and supply parts to end users, Rice said.

"We've created an entire supply chain designed to create Ohio jobs," Rice said. "We expect this program to result in the creation of 30 high-tech jobs in Ohio during the first three years and 85 jobs after five years."

The Research Institute will use part of the Third Frontier award to purchase a 3-D printer to demonstrate the technology, and the University of Dayton School of Engineering, which recently purchased a similar machine, will provide hands-on opportunities for engineering students to become involved.

"They will focus on research into new materials and innovation in additive manufacturing," Rice said. "It's a boost for our program, and it will also provide those students with skills that will help them secure high-tech manufacturing jobs after graduation."

For more information, visit: www.udayton.edu

Published in University of Dayton

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University today announced that it has received a $2.6 million contract (including option) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a smart suit that helps improve physical endurance for soldiers in the field. The novel wearable system would potentially delay the onset of fatigue, enabling soldiers to walk longer distances, and also potentially improve the body’s resistance to injuries when carrying heavy loads.

Lightweight, efficient, and nonrestrictive, the proposed suit will be made from soft wearable assistive devices that integrate several novel Wyss technologies. One is a stretchable sensor that would monitor the body’s biomechanics without the need for the typical rigid components that often interfere with motion. The system could potentially detect the onset of fatigue. Additionally, one of the technologies in the suit may help the wearer maintain balance by providing low-level mechanical vibrations that boost the body’s sensory functions.

The new smart suit will be designed to overcome several of the problems typically associated with current wearable systems, including their large power requirements and rigid overall structures, which restrict normal movement and can be uncomfortable.

While the DARPA project is focused on assisting and protecting soldiers in the field, the technologies being developed could have many other applications as well. For instance, similar soft-wearable devices hold the potential to increase endurance in the elderly and help improve mobility for people with physical disabilities.

Wyss Core Faculty member Conor Walsh, Ph.D., will lead this interdisciplinary program, which will include collaborations with Core Faculty member Rob Wood, Ph.D., and Wyss Technology Development Fellow Yong-Lae Park, Ph.D., for developing soft sensor technologies, and with Core Faculty member George Whitesides, Ph.D, for developing novel soft interfaces between the device and the wearer. Wood is also the Gordon McKay Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Whitesides is also the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard. Sang-bae Kim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ken Holt, PT, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Boston University’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will also play key roles on the project.

Also working on the project will be several members of Wyss’ Advanced Technology Team who will provide expertise in product development to ensure the rapid completion of prototypes. They will oversee the testing of prototypes in the Wyss Institute’s biomechanics lab, using motion capture capabilities that can measure the impact of the suit on specific muscles and joints.

"This project is a excellent example of how Wyss researchers from different disciplines work side by side with experts in product development to develop solutions to difficult problems that might not otherwise be possible," said Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, MD, Ph.D.

For more information, visit: wyss.harvard.edu

Published in Harvard

Joining Technologies, Inc., an innovator in industrial laser applications, announces that Joining Technologies Research Center (JTRC) is now offering Application Laboratory Days (AppLab Day™) for engineers interested in investigating projects that might benefit from laser additive manufacturing.

AppLab Day™ sessions will be held at JTRC’s state-of-the-art laser additive manufacturing research and development facility in East Granby, CT. Guided by JTRC’s laser additive experts, design engineers are able to conduct their own research, using JTRC equipment to create and analyze samples.

Hand in hand with Joining Technologies’ skilled researchers, engineers participating in the AppLab Day™ will learn first-hand how the laser additive process works and see how laser cladding of metal powder alloys can help enhance, repair, or freeform material in aerospace, power generation, valve and OEM-supplied components.

“JTRC’s new AppLab Day™ helps bridge the gap between university-level research and shop floor production laser cladding,” said Tim Biermann, director of research and development for JTRC. “Working with our research experts, design engineers can learn how laser cladding can help improve existing processes, or even create new products and processes.”

After conducting research in the applications laboratory, Joining Technologies can continue to help customers through in-depth research process, to the process evaluation and qualification phase, and finally into full scale production.

For more information, visit: www.joiningtech.com/jtrc/applabday.html

Published in Joining Technologies

There’s a lot to be said for the road that is taken—it’s safe, it’s well lit, and you probably know where it leads. Rarely does an opportunity present itself to leave the road entirely and venture off in search of new vistas. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeks trailblazers to explore the unknown in the areas of visual and geospatial data analysis. Researchers will participate in a short-fuse, crucible-style environment to invent new approaches to the identification of people, places, things and activities from still or moving defense and open-source imagery.

“A lot can happen when you put seriously intelligent, seriously motivated people in a room with a mission and a deadline,” said Michael Geertsen, DARPA program manager and the force behind the Innovation House Study. “We are inviting a new generation of innovators to try out ideas in an environment that encourages diverse solutions and far-out thinking. If this model proves to be as successful as we believe it could be, it represents a new means for participating in Government-sponsored research projects.”

DARPA’s Innovation House Study, conducted with George Mason University in Arlington, Va., will provide a focused residential research environment for as many as eight teams. Interested team leaders are encouraged to submit proposals by July 31, 2012, detailing their plan to design, execute and demonstrate a radical, novel research approach to innovation in the area of extracting meaningful content from large volumes of varied visual and geospatial media. Selected teams will receive up to $50,000 in funding.

The Innovation House concept revolves around a collaborative, rather than competitive, environment. The study will run for eight weeks over two four week sessions from Sept. 17, 2012 to Nov. 9, 2012. In Phase I, teams are expected to produce an initial design and demonstrate in software the crucial capabilities that validate their approach. In Phase II, teams are expected to complete and demonstrate a functional software configuration as a proof of concept. Teams demonstrating sufficient progress in Phase I will receive Phase II funding.

DARPA will provide access to unclassified data sets and facilitate interaction with mentors from U.S. Government and academia. These interactions will provide teams with context for how their proposed technology could be applied in the realworld.

For more information, visit: c4i.gmu.edu/InnovationHouse

Published in DARPA

An ambitious British expedition to Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica is using Autodesk digital prototyping software to help discover new answers about the evolution of life and effects of climate change.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) engineers will transport equipment overland for three days to the sub-glacial lake, where they will use a hot water drill to melt a 2.2-mile hole in the ice covering the submerged lake to extract water samples. The team will have a very short window of 24 hours to gather their samples before the hole re-freezes.

This exploration of one of Antarctica’s subglacial lakes has been planned for 15 years, but the team lacked the right tools to adequately try and test their plan to ensure they could gather the samples they need in the timeframe allowed. Through the use of Autodesk’s digital prototyping and simulation technology for sustainable design; BAS engineers can create a digital model of the drill; simulate the conditions under which they will work; test and analyze their approach; and make necessary adjustments before they embark on their expedition.

“This is hot water drilling on a scale never achieved before,” said Andy Tait, the BAS engineer managing the design of the hot water drill. “Because everything will have to be done so quickly, it is vital that we create an accurate 3D model of the entire drilling operation and simulate its performance because there will be no room for error once we are out on the ice.”

As a participant in the Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program, designed to help groundbreaking environmental projects such as this, BAS received Autodesk’s digital prototyping portfolio, including Autodesk Showcase, a visualization tool, and Autodesk Inventor Publisher for technical documentation. Tait will use Autodesk Inventor Publisher to visually and interactively communicate how the drills and its components work to colleagues and partners. He also believes that Autodesk Showcase will be invaluable for developing stunning presentations and other visualizations to help explain the technology to wider audiences.

Autodesk Inventor automatically coordinates changes across the digital model, streamlining the analysis, experimentation and eventual optimization of a design. This has been important to this project, not just because of because of need to carry out the operation within a tight timeframe, but also because of size, weight and strength parameters. The equipment must be transported over great distances and, therefore, needs to be strong, lightweight, and capable of withstanding extremely low temperatures.

“When our technology is being used to make this ambitious project successful, it gives me great confidence in the collective power of talented people working together to solve problems that otherwise could not be solved in isolation,” said Lynelle Cameron, Autodesk’s senior director of sustainability. “We’re delighted to be partnering with the BAS team on their unprecedented expedition.”

For more information, visit: www.ellsworth.org.uk

Published in Autodesk

DARPA’s Advanced Wide FOV Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation (AWARE) program is currently developing a gigapixel camera. As part of the program, DARPA successfully tested cameras with 1.4 and 0.96 gigapixel resolution at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC. The gigapixel cameras combine 100-150 small cameras with a spherical objective lens. Local aberration correction and focus in the small cameras enable extremely high resolution shots with smaller system volume and less distortion than traditional wide field lens systems. The DARPA effort hopes to produce resolution up to 10 and 50 gigapixels—much higher resolution than the human eye can see. Analogous to a parallel-processor supercomputer, the AWARE camera design uses parallel multi-scale micro cameras to form a wide field panoramic image.

The AWARE program is developing new approaches and advanced capabilities in imaging to support a variety of Department of Defense missions.

For more information, visit: www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/MTO/Programs/Advanced_Wide_FOV_Architectures_for_Image_Reconstruction_and_Exploitation_%28AWARE%29.aspx

Published in DARPA

A team of engineering students at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) won the Judges Innovation Design Award in a NASA contest that challenges college teams to build an efficient digging machine for the moon.

The soil of the moon has minerals that potentially can be mined, but in order to do so, NASA needs a light and efficient digging machine. To construct one, as well as encourage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM subjects – NASA sponsors a contest in which college students build a lunar excavation device called a Lunabot.  Fifty-eight teams competed in NASA’s Third Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Its project also received NYU-Poly’s first Paul Soros Prize for Creative Engineering, named for the alumnus whose engineering changed ports throughout the world.

The main test for the Lunabots was to mine and drop in a bin 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds) of simulated lunar dirt within 10 minutes. Challenges included the abrasive nature of lunar soil, the bot’s weight and team-to-robot communications.

“On the moon, dust eats away at everything,” said team captain Stanislav Rosylakov, who graduated in May in civil engineering and is enrolled at NYU-Poly for graduate school. Poly’s Lunabot had very good dust tolerance, he explained, as all the belts and chains were inside the structural frame. “Our robot was light, which is important because it costs so much to send supplies to the moon,” he said. For communications, NYU-Poly’s was one of the few teams that didn’t use a laptop, instead installing a small microcontroller with a Wi-Fi attachment.  

In addition, most of the teams built bulldozers, the simplest way to dig, while Team Atlas used a track, with scoops as part of the treads. “It could do somersaults, flip forward and get back on its feet,” noted Jessica Aleksandrowicz, from East Rutherford, New Jersey, an electrical engineering major who just finished her junior year.

The team used bright NYU-Poly green for parts, thanks to its 3D printer, a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. The NYU-Poly students’ bot was festooned with a flag, Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. They also made parts for other teams and little rockets for kids who came by their lunapit.

Along with Rosylakov and Aleksandrowicz, Team Atlas included Yusif Nurizade, (Electrical Engineering, BS 2013), who developed the software for wireless communication; Jack Poon (Mechanical Engineering, BS 2012), who engineered the excavation hardware and systems;  Nick Cavaliere (Mechanical Engineering, BS 2012), who engineered the power transmission, manufacturing and overall optimization;  Salvatore DiAngelus (Computer Engineering, BS 2013), who integrated hardware and software for wireless communication and control and worked on the onboard communications; Matthew Izberskiy (Computer Engineering, BS 2015), who engineered the data transfer and graphical user interface for wireless communication and control; and Ryan Caeti (Mechanical Engineering, MS 2012), who integrated hardware and software, engineered network communication and developed the graphical user interface.  In addition to his role of team captain, Rosylakov optimized the craft for the lunar soil conditions.  Aleksandrowicz was in charge of the website, media and fundraising.

The NASA competition also included a social media component, a 20-page paper and outreach. To educate about and promote STEM and space exploration, the NYU-Poly students visited the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women and The Christa McAuliffe School (I.S. 187), both in Brooklyn.

Atlast succeeded, said the team’s faculty advisor, Alexey Sidelev of the NYU-Poly Department of Civil Engineering, because students “were passionate about what they were doing and devoted a great deal of time to the project. They really worked as a team. They are proud to be engineers.” He added that the judges “said they liked everything about the NYU-Poly robot. The judges were cheering for them! I never saw judges so involved with a team.”

The best part of the competition, team captain Rosylakov added, is that the NYU-Poly students “got to see SpaceX launch! We met astronauts, and they complimented us. A few of us possibly have job offers from NASA.”

The Paul Soros Prize for Creative Engineering is a $10,000 annual prize established through a gift from Paul Soros, who earned his master’s of engineering degree in 1950 from what was then Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and served as a trustee from 1977 until 2007. NYU-Poly established the prize this year in recognition of Soros’s creative engineering solutions that improved port operations and his entrepreneurial acumen. The prize will be awarded each year to an individual student or a team from the fields of civil or mechanical engineering for the most innovative design idea or invention.  

Judging the first Paul Soros award were a panel of distinguished engineering faculty and alumni including Konstantinos "Gus"Maimis (’84 CE), vice president and project executive of WTC Memorial & Museum Projects;Jay Shapiro (’77 ME), vice president of Howard I. Shapiro & Associates Consulting Engineers, P.C.; Masoud Ghandehari, NYU-Poly associate professor of civil engineering; and Joseph Borowiec, NYU-Poly industry associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The team received support from Verizon Foundation, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), BatterySpace and MakerBot.

For more information, visit: www.poly.edu

A robot that drives into an industrial disaster area and shuts off a valve leaking toxic steam might save lives. A robot that applies supervised autonomy to dexterously disarm a roadside bomb would keep humans out of harm’s way. A robot that carries hundreds of pounds of equipment over rocky or wooded terrain would increase the range warfighters can travel and the speed at which they move. But a robot that runs out of power after ten to twenty minutes of operation is limited in its utility. In fact, use of robots in defense missions is currently constrained in part by power supply issues. DARPA has created the M3 Actuation program, with the goal of achieving a 2,000 percent increase in the efficiency of power transmission and application in robots, to improve performance potential.

Humans and animals have evolved to consume energy very efficiently for movement. Bones, muscles and tendons work together for propulsion using as little energy as possible. If robotic actuation can be made to approach the efficiency of human and animal actuation, the range of practical robotic applications will greatly increase and robot design will be less limited by power plant considerations.

M3 Actuation is an effort within DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) robotics program, and adds a new dimension to DARPA’s suite of robotics research and development work.

“By exploring multiple aspects of robot design, capabilities, control and production, we hope to converge on an adaptable core of robot technologies that can be applied across mission areas,” said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager. “Success in the M3 Actuation effort would benefit not just robotics programs, but all engineered, actuated systems, including advanced prosthetic limbs.”

Proposals are sought in response to a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). DARPA expects that solutions will require input from a broad array of scientific and engineering specialties to understand, develop and apply actuation mechanisms inspired in part by humans and animals. Technical areas of interest include, but are not limited to: low-loss power modulation, variable recruitment of parallel transducer elements, high-bandwidth variable impedance matching, adaptive inertial and gravitational load cancellation, and high-efficiency power transmission between joints.

Research and development will cover two tracks of work:

  • Track 1 asks performer teams to develop and demonstrate high-efficiency actuation technology that will allow robots similar to the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) platform to have twenty times longer endurance than the DRC GFE when running on untethered battery power (currently only 10-20 minutes). Using Government Furnished Information about the GFE, M3 Actuation performers will have to build a robot that incorporates the new actuation technology. These robots will be demonstrated at, but not compete in, the second DRC live competition scheduled for December 2014.

  • Track 2 will be tailored to performers who want to explore ways of improving the efficiency of actuators, but at scales both larger and smaller than applicable to the DRC GFE platform, and at technical readiness levels insufficient for incorporation into a platform during this program. Essentially, Track 2 seeks to advance the science and engineering behind actuation without the requirement to apply it at this point.

While separate efforts, M3 Actuation will run in parallel with the DRC. In both programs DARPA seeks to develop the enabling technologies required for expanded practical use of robots in defense missions. Thus, performers on M3 Actuation will share their design approaches at the first DRC live competition scheduled for December 2013, and demonstrate their final systems at the second DRC live competition scheduled for December 2014.

For more information or to submit a proposal, visit: go.usa.gov/wDF

Published in DARPA

Researchers at Rice University have developed a lithium-ion battery that can be painted on virtually any surface.

The rechargeable battery created in the lab of Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan consists of spray-painted layers, each representing the components in a traditional battery. The research appears today in Nature’s online, open-access journal Scientific Reports.

“This means traditional packaging for batteries has given way to a much more flexible approach that allows all kinds of new design and integration possibilities for storage devices,” said Ajayan, Rice’s Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry. “There has been lot of interest in recent times in creating power sources with an improved form factor, and this is a big step forward in that direction.”

Lead author Neelam Singh, a Rice graduate student, and her team spent painstaking hours formulating, mixing and testing paints for each of the five layered components – two current collectors, a cathode, an anode and a polymer separator in the middle.

The materials were airbrushed onto ceramic bathroom tiles, flexible polymers, glass, stainless steel and even a beer stein to see how well they would bond with each substrate.

In the first experiment, nine bathroom tile-based batteries were connected in parallel. One was topped with a solar cell that converted power from a white laboratory light. When fully charged by both the solar panel and house current, the batteries alone powered a set of light-emitting diodes that spelled out “RICE” for six hours; the batteries provided a steady 2.4 volts.

The researchers reported that the hand-painted batteries were remarkably consistent in their capacities, within plus or minus 10 percent of the target. They were also put through 60 charge-discharge cycles with only a very small drop in capacity, Singh said.

Each layer is an optimized stew. The first, the positive current collector, is a mixture of purified single-wall carbon nanotubes with carbon black particles dispersed in N-methylpyrrolidone. The second is the cathode, which contains lithium cobalt oxide, carbon and ultrafine graphite (UFG) powder in a binder solution. The third is the polymer separator paint of Kynar Flex resin, PMMA and silicon dioxide dispersed in a solvent mixture. The fourth, the anode, is a mixture of lithium titanium oxide and UFG in a binder, and the final layer is the negative current collector, a commercially available conductive copper paint, diluted with ethanol.

“The hardest part was achieving mechanical stability, and the separator played a critical role,” Singh said. “We found that the nanotube and the cathode layers were sticking very well, but if the separator was not mechanically stable, they would peel off the substrate. Adding PMMA gave the right adhesion to the separator.” Once painted, the tiles and other items were infused with the electrolyte and then heat-sealed and charged.

Singh said the batteries were easily charged with a small solar cell. She foresees the possibility of integrating paintable batteries with recently reported paintable solar cells to create an energy-harvesting combination that would be hard to beat. As good as the hand-painted batteries are, she said, scaling up with modern methods will improve them by leaps and bounds. “Spray painting is already an industrial process, so it would be very easy to incorporate this into industry,” Singh said.

The Rice researchers have filed for a patent on the technique, which they will continue to refine. Singh said they are actively looking for electrolytes that would make it easier to create painted batteries in the open air, and they also envision their batteries as snap-together tiles that can be configured in any number of ways.

“We really do consider this a paradigm changer,” she said.

Co-authors of the paper are graduate students Charudatta Galande and Akshay Mathkar, alumna Wei Gao, now a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and research scientist Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, all of Rice; Rice Quantum Institute intern Andrea Miranda; and Alexandru Vlad, a former research associate at Rice, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

The Advanced Energy Consortium, the National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education, Army Research Laboratories and Nanoholdings Inc. supported the research.

For more information, visit: www.nature.com/srep/2012/120628/srep00481/full/srep00481.html

Published in Rice University

Researchers are hopeful that new advances in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine could one day make a replacement liver from a patient’s own cells, or animal muscle tissue that could be cut into steaks without ever being inside a cow. Bioengineers can already make 2D structures out of many kinds of tissue, but one of the major roadblocks to making the jump to 3D is keeping the cells within large structures from suffocating; organs have complicated 3D blood vessel networks that are still impossible to recreate in the laboratory.

Now, University of Pennsylvania researchers have developed an innovative solution to this perfusion problem: they’ve shown that 3D printed templates of filament networks can be used to rapidly create vasculature and improve the function of engineered living tissues.

The research was conducted by a team led by postdoctoral fellow Jordan S. Miller and Christopher S. Chen, the Skirkanich Professor of Innovation in the Department of Bioengineering at Penn, along with Sangeeta N. Bhatia, Wilson Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and postdoctoral fellow Kelly R. Stevens in Bhatia’s laboratory.

Without a vascular system — a highway for delivering nutrients and removing waste products — living cells on the inside of a 3D tissue structure quickly die. Thin tissues grown from a few layers of cells don’t have this problem, as all of the cells have direct access to nutrients and oxygen. Bioengineers have therefore explored 3D printing as a way to prototype tissues containing large volumes of living cells.

The most commonly explored techniques are layer-by-layer fabrication, or bioprinting, where single layers or droplets of cells and gel are created and then assembled together one drop at a time, somewhat like building a stack of LEGOs.

Such “additive manufacturing” methods can make complex shapes out of a variety of materials, but vasculature remains a major challenge when printing with cells. Hollow channels made in this way have structural seams running between the layers, and the pressure of fluid pumping through them can push the seams apart. More important, many potentially useful cell types, like liver cells, cannot readily survive the rigors of direct 3D bioprinting.

To get around this problem, Penn researchers turned the printing process inside out.

Rather than trying to print a large volume of tissue and leave hollow channels for vasculature in a layer-by-layer approach, Chen and colleagues focused on the vasculature first and designed free-standing 3D filament networks in the shape of a vascular system that sat inside a mold. As in lost-wax casting, a technique that has been used to make sculptures for thousands of years, the team’s approach allowed for the mold and vascular template to be removed once the cells were added and formed a solid tissue enveloping the filaments.

“Sometimes the simplest solutions come from going back to basics,” Miller said. “I got the first hint at this solution when I visited a Body Worlds exhibit, where you can see plastic casts of free-standing, whole organ vasculature.”

This rapid casting technique hinged on the researchers developing a material that is rigid enough to exist as a 3D network of cylindrical filaments but which can also easily dissolve in water without toxic effects on cells. They also needed to make the material compatible with a 3D printer so they could make reproducible vascular networks orders of magnitude faster, and at larger scale and higher complexity, than possible in a layer-by-layer bioprinting approach.

After much testing, the team found the perfect mix of material properties in a humble material: sugar. Sugars are mechanically strong and make up the majority of organic biomass on the planet in the form of cellulose, but their building blocks are also typically added and dissolved into nutrient media that help cells grow.

“We tested many different sugar formulations until we were able to optimize all of these characteristics together,” Miller said. “Since there’s no single type of gel that’s going to be optimal for every kind of engineered tissue, we also wanted to develop a sugar formula that would be broadly compatible with any cell type or water-based gel.”

The formula they settled on — a combination of sucrose and glucose along with dextran for structural reinforcement — is printed with a RepRap, an open-source 3D printer with a custom-designed extruder and controlling software. An important step in stabilizing the sugar after printing, templates are coated in a thin layer of a degradable polymer derived from corn. This coating allows the sugar template to be dissolved and to flow out of the gel through the channels they create without inhibiting the solidification of the gel or damaging the growing cells nearby. Once the sugar is removed, the researchers start flowing fluid through the vascular architecture and cells begin to receive nutrients and oxygen similar to the exchange that naturally happens in the body.

The whole process is quick and inexpensive, allowing the researchers to switch with ease between computer simulations and physical models of multiple vascular configurations.

“This new platform technology, from the cell’s perspective, makes tissue formation a gentle and quick journey,” Chen said, “because cells are only exposed to a few minutes of manual pipetting and a single step of being poured into the molds before getting nourished by our vascular network.”

The researchers showed that human blood vessel cells injected throughout the vascular networks spontaneously generated new capillary sprouts to increase the network’s reach, much in the way blood vessels in the body naturally grow. The team then created gels containing primary liver cells to test whether their technique could improve their function.

When the researchers pumped nutrient-rich media through the gel’s template-fashioned vascular system, the entrapped liver cells boosted their production of albumin and urea, natural components of blood and urine, respectively, which are important measures of liver-cell function and health. There was also clear evidence of increased cell survival around the perfused vascular channels.

And theoretical modeling of nutrient transport in these perfused gels showed a striking resemblance to observed cell-survival patterns, opening up the possibility of using live-cell data to refine computer models to better design vascular architectures.

Though these engineered tissues were not equivalent to a fully functioning liver, the researchers used cell densities that approached clinical relevance, suggesting that their printed vascular system could eventually be used to further research in lab-grown organs and organoids.

“The therapeutic window for human-liver therapy is estimated at one to 10 billion functional liver cells,” Bhatia said. “With this work, we’ve brought engineered liver tissues orders of magnitude closer to that goal, but at tens of millions of liver cells per gel we’ve still got a ways to go.

“More work will be needed to learn how to directly connect these types of vascular networks to natural blood vessels while at the same time investigating fundamental interactions between the liver cells and the patterned vasculature. It’s an exciting future ahead.”

With promising indications that their vascular networks will be compatible with all types of cells and gels, the team believes their 3D printing method will be a scalable solution for a wide variety of cell- and tissue-based applications because all organ vasculature follows similar architectural patterns.

“Cell biologists like the idea of 3D printing to make vascularized tissues in principle, but they would need to have an expert in house and highly specialized equipment to even attempt it,” Miller said. “That’s no longer the case; we’ve made these sugar-based vascular templates stable enough to ship to labs around the world.”

Beyond integrating well with the world of tissue engineering, the researchers’ work epitomizes the philosophy that drives much of the open source 3D printing community.

“We launched this project from innovations rooted in RepRap and MakerBot technology and their supporting worldwide communities,” Miller said. “A RepRap 3D printer is a tiny fraction of the cost of commercial 3D printers, and, more important, its open-source nature means you can freely modify it. Many of our additions to the project are already in the wild.”

Several of the custom parts of the RepRap printer the researchers used to make the vascular templates were printed in plastic on another RepRap. Miller will teach a class on building and using these types of printers at a workshop this summer and will continue tinkering with his own designs.

“We want to redesign the printer from scratch and focus it entirely on cell biology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications,” Miller said.

In addition to Miller, Chen, Bhatia and Stevens, the research was conducted by Michael T. Yang, Brendon M. Baker, Duc-Huy T. Nguyen, Daniel M. Cohen, Esteban Toro, Peter A. Galie, Xiang Yu and Ritika Chaturvedi of Penn Bioengineering, along with Alice A. Chen of MIT. Bhatia is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Penn Center for Engineering Cells and Regeneration and the American Heart Association-Jon Holden DeHaan Foundation.

For more information, visit: www.upenn.edu

In an effort to accelerate technology transfer from NASA into the hands of American businesses, industry and the public, the agency's new Technology Transfer Portal is open for business.

NASA's Technology Transfer Portal provides an Internet-based one-stop front door to the agency's unique intellectual property assets available for technology transfer and infusion into America's new technology and innovation-driven economy. NASA's Technology Transfer Program allows research and development to transfer back into the U.S. economy via licenses, patents and intellectual property agreements that often result in new innovations, products and businesses. The use of NASA technology by American businesses spurs job growth and helps maintain U.S. economic competitiveness while improving our everyday lives.

"One of NASA's highest priority goals is to streamline its technology transfer procedures, support additional government-industry collaboration and encourage the commercialization of novel technologies flowing from our federal laboratories," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "One way NASA can streamline and increase the rate of aerospace technology transfer is through tools like NASA's Technology Transfer Portal."

NASA designs technologies to solve difficult problems in space and on Earth. Some examples include NASA-developed devices designed to operate remotely and with limited servicing in the harsh environment of space, and strong and lightweight materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures of supersonic flight or space travel. NASA has designed lifesaving techniques, protocols, and tools for use when orbiting the Earth and the nearest doctor is more than 200 miles below. Closed environment recycling systems, as well as energy generation and storage methods also have useful applications here on Earth.

NASA's new tech portal simplifies and speeds access to the agency's intellectual property portfolio, much of which is available for licensing. The site features a searchable, categorized database of NASA's patents, a module for reaching out to a NASA technology transfer specialist and articles about past successful commercialization of NASA technology. Historical and real-time data for NASA's technology transfer program also are available.

"A priority of NASA is to get federally-funded new technologies into the commercial marketplace," said NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck. "We're hopeful that entrepreneurs, businesses of all sizes and anyone looking for innovative solutions to technology problems will explore NASA's Technology Transfer Portal to find opportunities to transfer NASA technologies into innovative solutions for the nation."

For more information, visit: technology.nasa.gov

Published in NASA
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