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March 8, 2022

How ASU will help industry work on cutting edge technology

As part of a statewide plan to attract the high-tech industry, Arizona State University is building five science and technology centers.

ASU’s role in the New Economy Initiative is to strengthen its strength as a research force for industry partners, while keeping manufacturing at the forefront.

moreCreating the future of Arizona

Positions depend on where experts know the technology is headed. One of the two centers just launched is the Advanced Manufacturing Science and Technology Center, located on the Polytechnic campus.

Dhruv Bhate likes to call it MADE: Manufacturing, Automation, and Data Engineering.

Patty, associate professor in the College of Manufacturing Systems and Networks, one of seven in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Colleges of Engineering, recently toured the facility and talked about its role, what relationships with industry would look like and what it would look like to take the shape of success.

Question: What role will advanced manufacturing play in the new economy?

Answer: First, you have to ask what is the progress in advanced manufacturing?

Manufacturing of the future will include three main pillars that somehow push the edge of what we’ve done, what’s come before, and take it to new territory to offer new services, new products, and entirely new materials.

The first is what we call process science and engineering. The second is robotics and automation. And finally, the third is data analytics, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence (AI).

What binds these three together is really what we call advanced manufacturing. This is where we believe the jobs of the future will be created. This is what we believe will form the basis for innovation in the future, whether it is in the form of intellectual property (IP), whether it is in the form of companies that are spun to create new products or to create new materials or new processes that enable new products. In short, what will be the role of advanced manufacturing in the economy of the future.

Q: What will additive manufacturing – 3D printing?

a: Material will change a lot of things. In the past, materials were limited. You had plastic, metal, ceramic and vehicles. Additive manufacturing has turned all of that on its head. We are able to combine materials in ways we weren’t able to before. Using 3D printing, materials can be combined in ways that were previously impossible. The performance of the material can be improved more than it was before.

Suppose you want to build a crash protection structure in a helicopter. The pilot is attached to one structure, and the energy from the collision is absorbed by another structure. With additive manufacturing, the two can be combined, using less materials and reducing weight with a few different solutions, such as forms and honeycombs, but really take it to the next level and include design to get more advanced.

Video about the factories of the future: Arizona State University (ASU)

Video by Ken Fagan/Arizona State University News

Q: Nanotechnology (the use of matter on an atomic, molecular and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes) is at the forefront. It allows tennis balls to last longer and golf balls to fly straighter. The dressings are infused with silver nanoparticles to heal wounds faster. It is a technology applicable to many industries and products. What are the challenges of its widespread adoption?

a: The challenge with nanotechnology was to scale it up. You know, I can make some in the lab, but how do I scale it up to where there are nano-paints that might lower the cost of painting or reduce the environmental footprint? Now we’re talking about scaling technologies from the lab to manufacturing scales, where they can have a real impact on the market.

Thinking about how to scale that, we’ve often been doing it in a very dedicated way of trial and error. …what has really changed in many ways is data and our ability to use data in ways we never had before. Now, I can use the data to make improvements to my process much faster than I could before. I can, with the help of automated tools such as microscopes and testing machines, generate a good understanding of the large behavior of these structures. Using techniques like data analytics and machine learning to tell me how I need to change my process to improve it and make it next generation material. Nanomaterials with computational tools allow us to design structures in ways we could not use before.

Q: What kind of problems do you expect companies to present with?

a: Many companies have invested in new manufacturing processes or are interested in exploring a new material. One of the challenges when doing this is that it is very good to make a new substance in a lab. But if you want to put it on a plane, you have a lot of steps to follow in the meantime. Some of this is basic research. Can I develop that new alloy that can withstand higher temperatures than I was able to do before? Well, that may require re-engineering of the alloy, but some of that is what we call medium tech readiness, working in the lab, but I’m not sure if the FAA will certify this particular part. And in order to bridge that gap from the lab to an item that flies on a plane, I really need a lot of data, and we’re getting smart about collecting that data today.

Every time we introduce a new metal, say for a 3D printing system, it takes us two years – 1-2 years – on the order of a million dollars or so to create the kind of data we need authenticating this particular process, this particular material, this Part in particular. So what I expect from companies to come to us are two levels of engagement.

One is on the fundamental research side, where we have the deep knowledge expertise and technical capabilities to help companies evaluate the fundamental research side of things, but also to participate in that gap between the lab and the market, the so-called “death valley” where innovation is not able to translate and has an impact in market.

We use our proprietary testing equipment, our profiling equipment, along with computational tools like data analytics and machine learning to make this data smarter than we have before, with much less investment than we have before. Where the old philosophy was to have a certain number of samples, the new philosophy is that I can do this with fewer samples, but then use data analysis techniques to basically allow me to scale and bridge that gap where I get enough data to certify the material .

Q: What would success look like?

a: Fast forward a few years, and we have an ecosystem of faculty, industry partners, students, and staff all working together to solve problems and drive Arizona’s leadership in advanced manufacturing, creating the next wave of jobs that have been born and thanks to the initiatives, ideas, and projects that have come out From the Science and Technology Center (STC). If we see that happen, that means we have succeeded.

Top photo: Illustration by Alex Davis, Media Relations and Strategic Communications at Arizona State University