Manufacturing concepts being developed in the laboratories of Arizona State University will soon find a direct path to industrial application – known as technical transfer – a necessary breakthrough in advancing Arizona’s manufacturing industry.
This opportunity was made possible through efforts in ASU’s Manufacturing, Automation and Data Engineering, or MADE, Science and Technology Center. STCs are supported by Arizona’s New Economy Initiative, an investment in ASU’s mission to drive the state’s future economic growth and resilience through technical and technological innovation and training.
Designed to leverage the expertise of ASU’s faculty and its experience in establishing and maintaining industry partnerships, the MADE STC, located on ASU’s Polytechnic campus, facilitates collaboration to generate new manufacturing technologies, leading to new products that have the potential to affect industrial activity and the competitiveness of US manufacturing.
MADE’s first two projects were submitted by PADT, Inc. — a leading provider of numerical simulation, product development and 3D printing products and services based in Tempe, Arizona.
The first project aims to develop new technologies for recycling and upcycling unused materials to optimize additive manufacturing processes. The second is creating AI-based software capabilities that predict the manufacturability of a new product design. Although different, both projects aim to reduce costs, eliminate waste and are moving toward accelerated commercialization.
Re-establishing US leadership in advanced manufacturing to keep pace with current and future technological demands is one of the key drivers behind technology transfer initiatives such as this one.
“In recent years, Arizona has seen a significant infusion of advanced manufacturing across all industrial sectors,” said Binil Starly, the inaugural director of the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks, one of seven schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools. of Engineering at ASU. “STCs provide a mechanism for companies to tap into university talent, infrastructures and expertise.”
A joint investment in the future of production
PADT’s proposed projects align well with MADE’s key areas, including process science and engineering, robotics and automation, and data analytics, cyber and AI.
The scope of both projects was determined by PADT’s client and co-owner Rey Chu. Chu manages the company’s 3D printing and additive manufacturing services and also serves as a project manager for the two projects. He and his team of two other PADT engineers were paired with ASU faculty, creating a collaborative space where ideas could be turned into concepts that could eventually be commercialized.
“We have worked with ASU for the past 20 years, from capstone projects to graduate student research projects, and those projects are important because they are designed to educate students and publish research papers,” says Chu. “But the STC projects are different because both parties contribute the funding and technical expertise with the goal of commercialization and accelerating the growth of the additive manufacturing landscape.”
MADE introduces two projects from its portfolio
Associate Professor Keng Hsu from the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks will lead one of two projects in his Manufacturing Innovation Lab. He and graduate research associate M. Faisal Riyad and postdoctoral researcher Pu Han will collaborate on this effort.
Focused on impacting the aerospace industry, the 12-month project aims to develop technology that can convert unused materials into usable raw materials for other operations, such as conventional MIG welding and directed energy deposition, or DED, metal additive manufacturing technology.
“Currently, waste or raw materials that do not meet specifications go through expensive or very energy-intensive processes for recycling or are stored in warehouses with no plans for further processing,” says Hsu. “This technology will create a process that is more energy efficient and cost effective, simpler, safer and more accessible.”
Both Hsu and Chu say a multi-stage process to commercialization is expected.
“To bring a technology like this to market, we’re looking at three to five years of basic and engineering research and development,” says Hsu. “In addition, we will be involved in engineering validation and productization.”
Hsu and his team aim to “get as much knowledge about feasibility as possible in phase one” and, based on what they learn, move to phase two and beyond.
The second of the two projects is led by Andi Wang and Hyungwoong Ko, both assistant professors in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks. The project will involve a team of students ranging from undergraduate participants in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative to PhD students.
Over the course of 18 months, Wang and Ko will use AI-based software capabilities to “establish an analytics process that automatically determines the probability of success or manufacturability of a product design before the manufacturing process begins,” Wang says.
This “additive manufacturing consultant” will reduce cost and waste through trial and error and has the potential to benefit from PADT’s additive manufacturing consulting service area.
“The AI models based on real world data can predict the level of surface roughness, flatness or straightness. It also predicts the porosity or other quality aspects of additive manufacturing products, such as lattice- and topology-optimized structures,” write Wang and Ko. “Using predictive knowledge, the practitioner can select the right machines or materials and adapt their designs for high-performance additive manufacturing applications, such as biomedical and aerospace applications, before a large batch of defects is manufactured. This research seeks to find AI-driven solutions that can make predictive predictions and achieve born-qualified products beyond traditional in-situ monitoring and control and ex-situ evaluation.”
Chu says these are two areas that PADT sees demand in the industry.
“Our goal to participate in this [STC] projects is to really strengthen the production base in Phoenix and Arizona,” he says.
The future is now
Starly expects these two projects to be just the beginning and envisions MADE setting off a domino effect of opportunity and attracting more funding from private and federal sources.
“A result beyond the technical success of the STC projects is building relationships with companies, developing human capital and enabling new advanced manufacturing technology ecosystems that connect small, medium and large companies” , he says.
Organizations interested in partnering with an ASU STC can do so by submitting a proposal no later than Friday, December 16, 2022.