UT Becoming Key Player in Advanced Manufacturing Research

Not too long ago, the idea that people would be able to print a drivable car would have seemed absurd, yet that’s now reality thanks to innovations in advanced manufacturing.

Advanced manufacturing is just what the name implies—any form of building, producing, or even weaving products using techniques and materials that previously didn’t exist.

The College of Engineering has rapidly staked a claim in this emerging field thanks to some key faculty, new centers, and breakthroughs in research being conducted there and through the university’s ongoing partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“The role and nature of manufacturing is changing at a rapid pace,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the College of Engineering. “As a college, it’s critical for us to stay in front of that. For our students, being at that forefront means they leave here prepared for the realities of modern manufacturing.

“For us, being committed to advanced manufacturing isn’t just a smart choice; it’s vital.”

Appointments made through the UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair program underscore that commitment.

The program was established during the term of former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen with the explicit goal of bringing in top scientists to further enhance the UT-ORNL relationship.

The fourteenth and most recent program appointment is Uday Vaidya, who came to UT and ORNL as the Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing in June. He and Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing Suresh Babu were hired to elevate the university’s reputation as a leader in advanced manufacturing.

Five other Governor’s Chairs are also experts in areas relating to advanced materials, ranging from polymers to energy.

“The Governor’s Chair program has allowed us to reach out to and subsequently bring in several of the leading minds from around the country,” said Davis. “That, in turn, has led to us being able to position ourselves better as an institution, and has led to some important, high-profile centers for advanced manufacturing being located here.”

Among those centers is IACMI, the $259 million Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, which serves 120 members across thirty-seven states with both UT and ORNL as key strategic partners. President Obama visited East Tennessee in January to announce the center’s establishment.

The Ohio State University–led Manufacturing and Materials Joining Innovation Center, or Ma2JIC, recently welcomed UT as a member and a site for research involving additive manufacturing advanced materials, while the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials, or JIAM, is in its tenth year as a national center for materials science.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars that those centers represent, additional UT endeavors—like the Nonwovens Research Lab, where fibers are studied—contribute to advanced manufacturing.

“We’re in a position where we can take various approaches to improving manufacturing and answering some of the key questions about the innovations of tomorrow,” said Davis. “The future of advanced manufacturing is being able to identify the approaches that take advantage of the characteristics of metals and composites and to be able to interface these very different materials to create optimum solutions.

“There is no one solution that will be optimum for all industries.”

 

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)