The National Science Foundation has announced $26 million in funding for a new Engineering Research Center dedicated to developing and commercializing revolutionary, intelligent autonomous manufacturing systems, as well as educating a future manufacturing workforce. Fluid power technology promises to be an important contributor to the overall success of the program.
The Hybrid Autonomous Manufacturing, Moving from Evolution to Revolution (HAMMER) Engineering Research Center grant is for five years, with the ability to renew for another $26 million for an additional five years. The ERC will look to ease national security and supply chain issues by growing a next-generation American manufacturing industry.
According to NSF, HAMMER will advance national goals to assert American leadership in advanced manufacturing by developing and transitioning new manufacturing technologies to industry use. Simultaneously, the Center will drive new technical education to prepare, upskill, or reskill the relevant workforce, and expand capabilities across the manufacturing supply chain to meet national needs.
Core partners of the Center include The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, Northwestern University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the University of Tennessee. They will work with collaborators from more than 70 industry, educational and technical organizations to develop and implement new processes that generate top-quality, high-performance components.
HAMMER’s primary goal is to enable the concurrent design of products with novel manufacturing processes using hybrid manufacturing systems, as detailed in the recent Fluid Power World story, “Metamorphic manufacturing — a new way to craft complex parts.”
This approach will automate and greatly extend the flexibility and ingenuity of practicing human artisans. The HAMMER framework will leverage recent developments in robotics and sensors, along with the proven capabilities of servohydraulics, leading to novel processes that are more agile, productive, economical, energy efficient and eco-friendly.
Cutting-edge control, autonomy, and intelligence approaches will guide, and learn from prior manufacturing processes. Quality will be assured through understanding and predicting the local structure and properties of the material being processed within quantified uncertainty limits. Ultimately, HAMMER will advance the current state of technology to unite design, tools, artificial intelligence and computational materials engineering into a single framework, enabling rapid customization of small to extremely large components.
These components will possess locally optimized materials chemistry, microstructure, and properties in ways that are not currently attainable. Potential specific use cases include:
- Numerically controlled deformation sequences and equipment to create complex components that are currently produced as closed-die forgings, but with reduced lead-time and improved performance.
- Using digitally-controlled deformation to locally optimize properties in additive-manufactured components.
- Expanding capabilities for point-of-care manufacturing wherein automated operation, including deformation, are used to rapidly tailor medical devices to the patient anatomy.
- Developing low-cost, desktop training systems that provide students hands-on learning in programming, operating, and maintaining new manufacturing systems, as well as experiences creating new physical products using incremental deformation and hybrid processes. Strong partnerships with industry, educational and technical organizations will enable HAMMER to train personnel at many levels from pre-college to practicing engineers, and lead next-generation certification standards to facilitate widespread adoption of these technologies by the associated workforce.
This transformational investment is about much more than research, though that alone is certainly significant, said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson. “It’s about enhancing U.S. innovation and reclaiming our nation’s position as a leader in domestic manufacturing. We must invest in both American-made products and our local workforce to safeguard against future supply chain challenges and ensure we remain at the forefront of technological advancements that will transform the way we do business and improve our lives,” she said.
Glenn Daehn, the Mars G. Fontana Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at Ohio State will serve as the director of the center. “We really want to develop what is a new industry based on hybrid, autonomous manufacturing. We have a team of nearly 40 of the best, most innovative academics in manufacturing, materials and artificial intelligence across five institutions, and over the past three years developed a vision of what is really a new way of manufacturing and developed plans to change the manufacturing industry,” he said. “We welcome people reaching out to us asking to be involved.”
The NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) program supports convergent research, education and technology translation at U.S. universities to lead to strong societal impacts. Each ERC has interacting foundational components that go beyond the research project, including engineering workforce development at all stages, a culture of diversity and inclusion where all participants gain mutual benefit and value creation within an innovation ecosystem that will outlast the lifetime of the ERC.
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