UD's Center for Composite Materials is part of a new NIST-funded manufacuting technology consortium developed to study long-term industrial research challenges in an effort to advance U.S. manufacturing of composite materials..

Composites manufacturing

CCM to participate in NIST-funded manufacturing technology consortium

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1:40 p.m., Aug. 19, 2014--A new partnership that includes engineers, industry and national laboratories is collaborating to study long-term industrial research challenges in an effort to advance U.S. manufacturing of composite materials.

Led by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Materials is among the five universities and more than 50 companies and organizations that have joined forces to launch the Facilitating Industry by Engineering, Roadmapping and Science (FIBERS) Consortium. 

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The work is funded through a $496,439 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) program.

Now a $20 billion global industry, composites manufacturing is expected grow at rates that outpace the global domestic product over the next decade.

While U.S. universities and government laboratories already conduct basic research on composite materials, efforts to capitalize and translate these efforts into commercial production technologies have lagged.

The industry-led polymer composites consortium will develop a technology roadmap to identify shared technical obstacles and define pathways toward manufacturing advances that will enable scale-up of cost-effective, high-volume production processes 

“Nations with industries that succeed in increasing the scale and improving the repeatability of manufacturing processes, thereby reducing costs and improving material reliability, will be best positioned in a promising global market,” explained Suresh Advani, George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and department chair and lead principal investigator for UD.

According to Jack Gillespie, CCM director and co-principal investigator on the project, advantages of using composites materials include weight and energy savings, lower maintenance costs and greater design flexibility. 

These advantages, however, often are overshadowed by high materials costs, due largely to manufacturing limitations, and manufacturing cycle time and yield. Processes are difficult to scale up and usually are implemented through trial-and-error methods, making new approaches critical to long-term success.

As part of the FIBERS consortium, over the next 18 months Advani and Gillespie will help:

  • Develop a detailed technology roadmap for polymer composites manufacturing; 
  • Establish a shared understanding of critical manufacturing challenges; and 
  • Initiate sustained efforts to tackle these challenges.

Other desired outcomes include a collaborative environment that encourages current and future consortium members to work together to improve the functionality and reliability of composites, to introduce automation to enable high-volume production, and to reduce overall materials costs.

The grant, awarded under project No. 70NANB14H057, is one of only two composites manufacturing grants awarded under AMTech and one of 19 total grants selected from more than 80 proposals.

Article by Karen B. Roberts

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