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NIU gets $2.4 million to study ‘3D printing’

September 19, 2013
Promod Vohra

Promod Vohra

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced that NIU will receive $2.4 million to develop tools for process control and qualifying parts made with layer-by-layer additive-manufacturing processes.

Benefits of additive manufacturing include producing goods quickly and on-demand, with greater customization and complexity and less material waste.

“It is good to be at the cutting edge of technology,” said Promod Vohra, dean of NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, which will lead the research. “It is rewarding to be recognized by an agency such as NIST in our efforts to keep manufacturing vibrant and America competitive.”

U.S. News and World Report recently named the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology as one of the top 50 engineering programs in the country where the highest available degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree. NIU ranks No. 45 on this prestigious list, with programs in mechanical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, electrical engineering and technology.

It places a premium on hands-on learning and provides students many opportunities to join faculty in research and to work internships with the college’s many corporate partners.

“The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Northern Illinois University is committed to partnerships that advance the national innovation agenda and promote economic development across our region,” added Lisa Freeman, vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at NIU. “The college’s history of successful collaboration with industry, national laboratories and other universities provides a strong foundation for success at such endeavors, as evidenced by the receipt of this substantial award in a very competitive environment.

“Dean Promod Vohra; Associate Dean Mansour Tahernezhadi; NIU’s advanced manufacturing liaison, professor Federico Sciammarella; and Joseph Santner, ROCK senior program manager; have lent their leadership and expertise to this initiative, and I am confident that this marks the beginning of NIU’s prominence in advancing manufacturing research to benefit society.”

Logo of National Institute of Standards and TechnologyRichard Johnson, director of the ROCK Program, and Matt Gonser, instructor in mechanical engineering, also worked on the proposal writing team.

NIST is also 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.

“Improving additive manufacturing is an important part of the administration’s efforts to help U.S. manufacturers by supporting new opportunities to innovate,” said Patrick Gallagher, under secretary of commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST director. “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.

Mansour Tahernezhadi, Federico Sciammarella and Joseph Santner

Mansour Tahernezhadi, Federico Sciammarella and Joseph Santner

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. NIU 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.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.