Manufacturing concepts that are being developed in Arizona State University labs will soon be on a direct pathway to industry application — also called tech transfer — a necessary breakthrough in advancing the manufacturing industry in Arizona.
This opportunity has been made possible via 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 assignment to drive the state’s future economic growth and resiliency through engineering and technology innovation and training.
Designed to leverage ASU’s faculty expertise and its experience in establishing and maintaining industry partnerships, the MADE STC, located at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, facilitates collaboration to generate novel manufacturing technologies, leading to new products that have the potential to impact industry operations and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.
MADE’s first two projects were submitted by PADT, Inc. — a leading provider of numerical simulation, product development and 3D printing products and services in Tempe, Arizona.
The first project aims to develop new technologies to recycle and upcycle unused materials to optimize additive manufacturing processes. The second is creating AI-based software capabilities that will predict the manufacturability of a new product design. Although different, both projects seek to reduce costs, eliminate waste and are on a trajectory to be fast-tracked to commercialization.
Re-establishing U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing to keep pace with current and future technology demands is one of the main motivators behind tech-transfer initiatives like this one.
“Over the last few years, Arizona has seen a significant infusion of advanced manufacturing across all industrial sectors,” says Binil Starly, the inaugural director of the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks, one of the 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 collaborative investment into the future of manufacturing
PADT’s proposed projects aligned well with MADE’s major thrust areas, which include process science and engineering, robotics and automation, and data analytics, cyber and AI.
The scope of both projects was determined by PADT’s principal and co-owner Rey Chu. Chu manages the company’s 3D printing and additive manufacturing services and also serves as the project manager for the two projects. He and his team of two other PADT engineers were paired with ASU faculty, enabling a collaborative space for ideas to transform into concepts that can eventually be commercialized.
“We have worked with ASU for the past 20-plus years, from capstone projects to graduate student research projects and those projects are important because they are designed to teach students and publish research papers,” Chu says. “But, the STC projects are different because both parties are contributing the funding and technical expertise with the goal of commercialization and accelerating the growth of the additive manufacturing landscape.”
MADE debuts two projects from its portfolio
Associate Professor Keng Hsu in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks will lead one of the two projects in his Manufacturing Innovation Lab. He and graduate research associate M. Faisal Riyad and postdoctoral research scholar Pu Han will work together on this effort.
The 12-month project, targeted to impact the aerospace industry, will aim to develop technology that can turn unused materials into useful feedstock for other operations like conventional MIG welding and directed energy deposition, or DED, metal additive manufacturing technology.
“Currently, waste or out-of-spec feedstock materials go through either costly or highly energy-intensive processes for recycling or are stored at warehouses with no plans for further processing,” Hsu says. “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-phase process to commercialization is projected.
“To take a technology like this to commercialization, we are looking at three to five years of basic and engineering research and development,” Hsu says. “On top of this, we will then tackle engineering validation and productization.”
Hsu and his team aim to “gain as much feasibility knowledge as possible in phase one” and based on what they learn, move into phase two and beyond.
The second of the two projects is being led by Andi Wang and Hyungwoong Ko, both assistant professors also 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 doctoral candidates.
Over the course of 18 months, Wang and Ko will use AI-based software capabilities to “establish an analysis process that automatically determines a product design’s likelihood of success, or manufacturability, before the manufacturing process starts,” Wang says.
This “additive manufacturing advisor” will reduce cost and waste caused by trial and error and has the potential to benefit 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,” Wang and Ko write. “Using predictive knowledge, the practitioner can select the appropriate machines or materials and modify their designs for high-value additive manufacturing applications, such as biomedical and aerospace applications, before a large batch of defects is fabricated. This research seeks to find AI-driven solutions that can make anticipatory predictions and to 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 for in the industry.
“Our goal in participating in these [STC] projects is to really strengthen the Phoenix and Arizona manufacturing base,” he says.
The future is now
Starly anticipates that these two projects are only the beginning and envisions MADE initiating a domino effect of opportunity and attracting more funding from private and federal sources.
“An outcome beyond the technical success of the STC projects is to build relationships with companies, develop human capital and enable new advanced manufacturing technology ecosystems connecting small, medium and large businesses,” he says.
Organizations interested in collaborating with an ASU STC can do so by submitting a proposal by Friday, December 16, 2022.