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U.S. Department of Energy selects team including Purdue for innovative energy-saving manufacturing initiative

News International-French

12 Jan 2015

Federal commitment of $70 million added to $189 million pledged by industry, state economic development agencies, universities for composite-materials effort.

Purdue University is part of a deep and diverse team selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to lead a $259 million initiative to develop the next generation of energy-efficient vehicles and wind energy and compressed-gas storage technologies.

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) will direct the five-year effort with a $70 million federal commitment from the DOE as part of President Obama's National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), the White House announced Friday (Jan. 9). The University of Tennessee in Knoxville is the lead institution for IACMI.

Economic development agencies from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Colorado have pledged more than $60 million for IACMI's efforts. That is combined with $25 million from 122 major manufacturers and other organizations in those states, nearly $8 million from universities and national research laboratories, and in-kind support from those groups valued at more than $90 million.

"The advanced composite market is poised for dramatic growth," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "This important public-private partnership has a strong research, development and deployment mission, establishing a major sector of our manufacturing economy focused on advancing the use of composite materials such as carbon fiber to make lighter-weight cars, wind turbines, natural gas storage tanks and other products."

Used in everything from skateboards and airplanes to components on the space shuttle, advanced composite materials have broad, proven applications because of their lightweight properties and unusually high stiffness while also remaining elastic.

The multistate initiative includes a Purdue research team led by R. Byron Pipes, the John Leighton Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering, along with a consortium of university researchers, manufacturers, national laboratories, and state and local government agencies. Five major research centers will be launched, located primarily in Midwestern states where nearly 70 percent of U.S. auto production and over 700 composite companies currently reside:

  • Purdue will develop and launch the Composites Virtual Factory HUB (cvfHUB) to deploy and integrate simulation tools that capture the manufacturing phenomena under development in the other IACMI centers of excellence. The Indiana center will develop streams of valued-added products that can be manufactured from fibers and "prepreg" materials reclaimed from the factory floor. In partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Purdue will develop simulation of composites additive manufacturing, stand up additive manufacturing facilities, and examine fundamental science and engineering of additive manufacturing. Indiana is providing $15 million in new funds to support this portion of the initiative.
  • The Vehicles Application Center, which is organized around core partner Michigan State University. Manufacturing support is from the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), with computer modeling and simulation support from Purdue. The University of Michigan, Michigan Tech and Interlaken are supporting partners. The state of Michigan is contributing $15 million.
  • The Materials and Processing Enabling Technology Center, which includes leading partners Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee and University of Kentucky, with support from Vanderbilt University. The state of Tennessee is contributing $15 million and Kentucky is pledging $1 million to the effort.
  • The Compressed Gas Storage Application Center, which is led by the University of Dayton Research Institute. The center includes supporting partners from the National Composites Center, Ohio State University, Polymer Ohio, Sinclair Community College and Fives, an industrial engineering group. The state of Ohio is contributing $10 million to the effort.
  • The Wind Turbine Application Center, which is led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado and includes supporting partner institutions Colorado School of Mines, Colorado University-Boulder, Colorado State University and Iowa State University. The state of Colorado is providing $7 million in new funds for this effort.

IACMI also will help advance technical education and workforce development by bringing together community colleges and universities, state economic development agencies, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to train a skilled manufacturing workforce for supporting the anticipated growth in advanced composites across the country, Pipes said.

The Purdue-led Design, Modeling & Simulation Enabling Technology Center will offer modeling and simulation tools to help address the need to shorten the development cycle and decrease the cost of composites manufacturing while allowing more time for innovation throughout the entire supply chain, Pipes said.

These advanced simulation tools will be available to IACMI partners through the Composites Virtual Factory HUB, or cvfHUB, built on Purdue's HUB-based computer platform developed through Discovery Park over the past decade with an investment of more than $30 million.

The cvfHUB will support manufacturers by sharing and integrating commercial design and simulation software with the supply chain to simulate the performance of complex composite manufacturing. Oak Ridge National Laboratory will provide supercomputer access to IACMI teams for large simulations to be run on cvfHUB, Pipes said.

Initially, IACMI will focus on three composite manufacturing technologies designed to address the issues of speed, cost and energy. To the extent possible, the effort will work exclusively with U.S. equipment manufacturers to help them advance their products to compete globally, Pipes said. The technologies are:

  • Compression Molding of Continuous Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Plastics (CFRP)
  • High-Pressure Resin Transfer Molding (HP-RTM)
  • Insert/Overmold Injection Molding (IOIM).

Lighter-weight vehicles will save fuel
DOE research shows that a 10 percent drop in vehicle mass can yield a 6-8 percent reduction in fuel consumption. Using highly engineered carbon fiber composites can yield mass reductions of 60-70 percent in optimized vehicle structures. Wind turbines also will operate more efficiently at a lower-cost to displace non-renewable energy sources. And compressed gas tanks will allow economic use of natural gas and, ultimately, hydrogen as fuels with lower environmental impact than petroleum-derived fuels.

Over the next 10 years, the IACMI estimates, more than 30,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs could be created in the fiber-reinforced polymer industry. During that same period, up to $3 billion worth of cumulative private capital investment also is expected for boosting production capacity for the carbon fiber and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer sectors.

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