Over the past decade, many of the world’s top corporations and industries have called on Missouri S&T researchers to improve existing manufacturing processes and develop new approaches and materials.
“We’re always looking for ways to create new capabilities, improve performance and increase productivity,” says Ming Leu, the Keith and Pat Bailey Missouri Distinguished Professor of Integrated Product Manufacturing at Missouri S&T.
Introducing advanced manufacturing processes is important to the nation’s long-term, sustainable economic growth. U.S. manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of gross domestic product, 70 percent of private R&D spending and 86 percent of exports.
The above video provides more information about the Advanced Manufacturing signature area.
“To me, the hybrid aspect of traditional manufacturing and additive manufacturing is the future for the U.S. to remain competitive,” says Jagannathan Sarangapani, the William A. Rutledge-Emerson Electric Co. Distinguished Professor in Electrical Engineering at Missouri S&T. “This aspect requires skill sets from researchers in a variety of disciplines.”
One of S&T’s four signature areas for teaching and research, Advanced Manufacturing has strengths in the emerging fields of additive manufacturing; energy manufacturing; micro- and nano-scale manufacturing; network-centric and cloud manufacturing; advanced materials for manufacturing; and intelligent, sensor-enabled manufacturing.
For example, S&T researchers are working to create “smart parts” by embedding sensors and communication circuits that allow goods to be tracked throughout the supply chain.
“Recording the chain of custody from the point of manufacture of all of the product’s components to the point the customer receives it is helpful when products are recalled,” Sarangapani says. “It also can be used to help stop counterfeit, a rising problem worldwide.”
In the advanced manufacturing area, S&T also has particular strengths in additive manufacturing, composites manufacturing and metal casting. In addition, its micro- and nano-manufacturing program has seen rapid growth in recent years.
“By building components one layer at a time using data from CAD models, additive manufacturing has the potential to fabricate 3-D components with novel material compositions with properties and functionalities that would otherwise be very difficult to create conventionally,” Leu says. “In this area, S&T researchers have developed unique processes for making functionally gradient materials, a new concept for creating composites of continuously varying materials.
Missouri S&T’s expertise in advanced manufacturing has been nationally recognized, which has opened up many collaborative opportunities. Most recently, S&T was one of 23 universities selected to join with industry, governmental agencies and other organizations to form the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, a new national innovative manufacturing institute based in Chicago. S&T is also a member of America Makes — National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, an organization focused on helping the country grow capabilities and strength in 3-D printing.
“During the Henry Ford era, manufacturing was focused on mass production — just making enough quantity so the price could be reduced,” Leu says. “Then came mass customization, where smaller quantities with more variety were offered. Now we’re at the personalization era where parts are designed and fabricated for the individuals. The goal is to make a one-of-a-kind product at or near the same price as the mass production.”
By developing tailored materials and fabrication methods, S&T researchers are paving the way for a number of manufacturing processes. Here are a few examples:
Greg Hilmas, Curators’ Professor of ceramic engineering, and Robert Landers, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, demonstrated the additive manufacturing of a 3-D part by grading two ceramic materials, alumina and zirconia, which have different properties.
Umit Koylu, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is using selective laser sintering to create bipolar plates of different flow field designs for PEM fuel cells, a key issue for improving fuel cell performance.
K. Chandrashekhara, Curators’ Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is using fused deposition modeling to manufacture sparse-build molds and dies to save material and cost for composites manufacturing and hydroforming.
Frank Liou, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Joe Newkirk, associate professor of materials science and engineering, are working with Boeing and GKN Aerospace to repair worn components and to make components with gradients of two different metals.
Suzanna Long, associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering, is working to ensure that the nation’s supply network is efficiently and seamlessly connected — from raw materials to finished products. She says it’s critical for the health and vitality of the U.S. and world economy.
Story by Mindy Limback. Video by Terry Barner. Photo by Sam O’Keefe.