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NAMRI/SME Highlights Research Innovations at NAMRC Conference

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media

Manufacturing academics were honored for their service, contributions and outstanding manufacturing research during the annual North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC), held by the North American Manufacturing Research Institution of SME (NAMRI/SME). This year’s 45th annual event was hosted by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The 2017 S.M. Wu Research Implementation Award winner Ajay Malshe (middle) is congratulated by 2016-17 NAMRI/SME President Dean Bartles (left) and SME CEO Jeff Krause (right).

During the annual awards ceremony, 21 awards were given out to researchers, students and industry professionals. NAMRC is the premier international forum for applied research and industrial applications in manufacturing and design. NAMRI/SME brings together researchers from around the world for the purpose of advancing the scientific foundation of discrete-parts manufacturing.

“Manufacturing is an industry of exceptional opportunities, driven by research that pushes the boundaries of what is possible,” said NAMRI/SME President Dean Bartles, PhD, FSME. “Those recognized today are driving that research and our industry forward in ways that will make a difference for decades.”

The 2017 NAMRI/SME award winners include:

  • NAMRI/SME S.M. Wu Research Implementation Award, Ajay Malshe, PhD, University of Arkansas/NanoMech Inc., Springdale, Arkansas.
  • NAMRI/SME Outstanding Lifetime Service Award, Neil Duffie, PhD, FSME, CMfgE, PE, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.

The NAMRI/SME Outstanding Paper Award was presented for three papers:

  • “Adaptive Learning Control for Thermal Error Compensation of 5-Axis Machine Tools,”
  • “A Virtual Sensing Based Augmented Particle Filter for Tool Condition Prognosis,”
  • “Highly Removable Water Support for Stereolithography.

The inaugural NAMRI/SME David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award and Blue Sky Competition, funded by the National Science Foundation, also was awarded at NAMRC this year. The David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award is intended to encourage truly visionary concepts of research and education and is awarded to the top presentation as determined by the program committee.

“Manufacturing accounts for more than three-quarters of all private research and development in the US,” said Scott Smith, PhD, FSME, professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and a past president of NAMRI/SME. “This competition seeks the radical, challenging [ideas] that push the limits of what manufacturing’s future may be.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation, abstracts for the inaugural competition were part of a special “Blue Sky Ideas” track at the conference. Submissions were judged by a committee based on how they challenge existing assumptions and the extent to which they expand the possibilities and horizons of the field.

The inaugural NAMRI/SME Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award is named after the late University of California at Berkley professor, who was regarded as a global leader in sustainable manufacturing and smart manufacturing, and the award recognizes outstanding vision and leadership within the manufacturing community. “We’re honored to recognize Professor Dornfeld, a fellow and past director of SME, as well as a founder of NAMRC, for his contributions to manufacturing,” Smith said. “His legacy will live on in the future industry pioneers and the commitment they make to advancing our industry.”

Dornfeld Award winner Tony Schmitz, PhD, FSME.

The award was given to Tony Schmitz, PhD, FSME, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for his presentation, “Biomemetic Manufacturing.” Next-generation manufacturing innovation will be enabled, in part, by imitating biological systems in production environments. In his presentation, Schmitz outlined new research in the biomemetic manufacturing arena.

Don Lucca, PhD, FSME, CMfgE, regents professor and Herrington chair in advanced materials at Oklahoma State University, presented the NAMRI/SME Founders Lecture, entitled “On the Path to Ultraprecision Machining.”

The NAMRC 46 will be held June 18-22, 2018, at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Laser Technique Makes Graphene from Wood

A team of scientists at Rice University (Houston) have made wood into an electrical conductor by turning its surface into graphene.

The research team, led by Rice chemist James Tour, used a laser to blacken a thin film pattern onto a block of pine. The pattern is laser-induced graphene (LIG), a form of the atom-thin carbon material discovered at Rice in 2014.

“It’s a union of the archaic with the newest nanomaterial into a single composite structure,” Tour said in a statement. The material could be used for biodegradable electronics. The discovery is detailed this month in Advanced Materials, see the web page Previous iterations of LIG were made by heating a sheet of polyimide, an inexpensive plastic, with a laser. Rather than a flat sheet of hexagonal carbon atoms, LIG is a foam of graphene sheets with one edge attached to the underlying surface and chemically active edges exposed to the air.

Not just any polyimide would produce LIG, Tour said. The research team, led by Rice graduate students Ruquan Ye and Yieu Chyan, tried birch and oak, but found that pine’s cross-linked lignocellulose structure made it better for production of high-quality graphene than woods with a lower lignin content. Lignin is the complex organic polymer that forms rigid cell walls in wood.

Ye said turning wood into graphene opens new avenues for the synthesis of LIG from nonpolyimide materials. “For some applications, such as three-dimensional graphene printing, polyimide may not be an ideal substrate,” he said. “In addition, wood is abundant and renewable.”

This Rice University athletics logo is made of laser-induced graphene on a block of pine. Image courtesy of the Tour Group.

As with polyimide, the process takes place with a standard industrial laser at room temperature and pressure and in an inert argon or hydrogen atmosphere. Without oxygen, heat from the laser doesn’t burn the pine but transforms the surface into wrinkled flakes of graphene that are foam bound to the wood surface. Changing the laser power also changed the chemical composition and thermal stability of the resulting LIG. At 70% power, the laser produced the highest quality of “P-LIG,” where the P stands for “pine.”

The lab took its discovery a step further by turning P-LIG into electrodes for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen and supercapacitors for energy storage. For the former, they deposited layers of cobalt and phosphorus or nickel and iron onto P-LIG to make a pair of electrocatalysts with high surface areas that proved to be durable and effective.

Depositing polyaniline onto P-LIG turned it into an energy-storing supercapacitor that had usable performance metrics, according to Tour. “There are more applications to explore,” Ye said. “For example, we could use P-LIG in the integration of solar energy for photosynthesis. We believe this discovery will inspire scientists to think about how we could engineer natural resources into better-functioning materials.” The process would also create biodegradable electronics.

The co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate students Jibo Zhang and Yilun Li; Xiao Han, who has a complimentary appointment at Rice and is a graduate student at Beihang University, Beijing, China; and Rice research scientist Carter Kittrell. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative and the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment supported the research.

New Nanomaterials Could Build Future Electronic Devices

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have devised a new method to pattern nanomaterials that could help create new electronic devices.

This research, published in Science (see, could lead to scientists making these materials more readily available for use in everything from LED displays to cell phones and photodetectors and solar cells. While nanomaterials are promising for future devices, the methods for building them into complex structures to date have been limited and small-scale.

Postdoctoral researcher Yuanyuan Wang holds a “mask” used in a new process that makes it easier to build nanomaterials into transistors, solar cells and other devices. Image courtesy Jean Lacha

"This is a step needed to move quantum dots and many other nanomaterials from proof-of-concept experiments to real technology we can use,” said co-author Dmitri Talapin, professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago and a scientist with the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne, in a statement. “It really expands our horizons.”

Transistors, the foundation of modern computing, are extremely small switches made by the billions through a process called photolithography. The process, which made smartphones ubiquitous and inexpensive, creates a stencil out of a layer of the organic polymer by laying down a patterned “mask,” and illuminating it with ultraviolet light. After the new material is deposited on top, the polymer stencil is lifted off to reveal the pattern. Several rounds of such patterning build a miniature transistor onto the material.

Photolithography has its limitations. Only a few materials can be patterned this way. The method was originally developed for silicon, but as silicon’s half-century reign over electronics reaches its end, scientists are looking ahead to the next materials. One such avenue of interest is nanomaterials—tiny crystals of metals or semiconductors. At this scale, they can have unique and useful properties, but manufacturing devices out of them has been difficult.

A new technique, called DOLFIN, makes different nanomaterials directly into “ink” in a process that bypasses the need to lay down a polymer stencil. Talapin and his team designed chemical coatings for individual particles. These coatings react with light, so if you shine light through a patterned mask, the light will transfer the pattern directly into the layer of nanoparticles below—wiring them into useful devices.

“We found the quality of the patterns was comparable to those made with state-of-the-art techniques,” said lead author Yuanyuan Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago. “It can be used with a wide range of materials, including semiconductors, metals, oxides or magnetic materials—all commonly used in electronics manufacturing.”

The research team is working on commercializing the DOLFIN technology with the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Tech Front is edited by Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak;

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