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Purdue to be Part of Institute Aimed at Next-generation Manufacturing

Purdue University will be part of a digital manufacturing institute announced Tuesday (Feb. 25) by President Barack Obama.

by Purdue University
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Test firing of 3-D printed part (NASA, Space Launch System, 07/24/13)Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight CenterThe Digital Lab for Manufacturing was awarded to Chicago's UI Labs, a research and commercialization collaborative of industry, universities and government. 

The federal government will provide $70 million for the Digital Lab. Private and other government funding will add an additional $250 million.

Digital manufacturing is the application of computing, sensing and data analytics to improve manufacturing machines and factories.

Purdue will team with Rolls Royce, General Electric, PARC, the National Center for Supercomputer Applications and the Digital Lab in one of the Digital Lab's first projects, focused on advanced manufacturing enterprise.

"Purdue is excited to be working with UI Labs and the other government, industry and academic partners on the Digital Lab for Manufacturing," said Richard Buckius, Purdue's vice president for research. "So much of our research focuses on the future of manufacturing that this is a perfect fit."

Purdue will lead the application of 3-D modeling and enterprise interoperability standards for data exchange among companies within the U.S. Department of Defense supply chain. Purdue also will develop best practices for the use of 3-D modeling throughout a product supply chain. These methods will be turned into training and workforce education materials.

The training will be delivered through the Purdue Product Lifecycle Management Center in conjunction with the Digital Lab. The PLM Center is focused on the creation and downstream use of the 3-D digital product definition within an enterprise and its supply and sustainment networks.

Also working on the Digital Lab project will be IN-MaC, Purdue's next-generation manufacturing competitiveness center.

"Through the Digital Lab, Purdue will work to bring advances in technology to industry in the next 12 to 24 months rather than years from now," said Nathan Hartman, the technical leader for Purdue's effort. He is an associate professor in the College of Technology's Department of Computer Graphics and director of the PLM Center. He also is co-director of IN-MaC's research effort along with Abhijit Deshmukh, the James J. Solberg Head of Industrial Engineering.

PLM methods and practices enable companies to make better business decisions by leveraging the digital product definition throughout the lifecycle of a product, using data collection, integration, transformation, analysis and visualization processes. It begins with a product's requirements and continues through design, manufacturing, maintenance and recycling of the product.

IN-MaC, which was launched with state funding in July, focuses on the use of digital product data; digital connection of the industrial supply chain; technology adoption by small and medium-sized manufacturers; and workforce education spanning K-12, post-secondary and current workers. 

One goal of the government in setting up the Digital Lab is to promote the use of digital data through a product's lifecycle, including the supply chain, Hartman said. A digitally integrated supply chain is particularly relevant to the defense department because of its complex systems, extended supply chains and the long lifecycles of the products it uses. Digital data are used by many people over the life of a product, including those involved in design, production, procurement and support. It is critical that data be maintained over the product's life to reduce costs and accurately preserve product system information.

In addition to advanced manufacturing enterprise, the Digital Lab will focus on advanced analysis and intelligent machining, with a thread of cybersecurity through all three areas.

Hartman said the projects indentified so far through the Digital Lab proposal are only the beginning.

"We expect many more projects to come out of the Digital Lab, which will offer opportunities for people from across Purdue to participate," he said. "All of the projects will be developed with the Digital Lab's industry partners with a focus on mid-range technology readiness levels."

Leading industry partners for the Digital Lab include General Electric, Rolls-Royce, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Lockheed Martin and Siemens.