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NAMRC 47: Innovations in Manufacturing Research

By Ihab Ragai, PhD, PE NAMRC 47 Chair

The North American manufacturing Research Institution of SME (NAMRI | SME) held its 47th annual conference on manufacturing research (NAMRC 47) in Erie, Pa., from June 10-14. The conference was co-located with the ASME’s International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC 2019).

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Ihab Ragai (far left) is pictured with 2014 SME President Michael Molnar; SME Executive Director and CEO Sandra Bouckley, FSME, P.Eng.; ASME President Said Jahanmir, PhD; and SME’s Senior Director of Communications Christopher Barger.

Together, these conferences constitute the world’s foremost gathering on manufacturing research. Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, a major college of Penn State University located in Erie, hosted this year’s event at the city’s beautiful Bayfront Convention Center on the shores of Lake Erie. As this year’s chair, I was honored to organize the first NAMRC conference to be hosted by Penn State Behrend.

All who attended agreed that NAMRC 47/MSEC 2019 was a great success, as over 600 researchers from 26 countries—representing academia, industry and government agencies—came together to present and share approximately 350 technical papers and 60 posters, spanning more than 130 technical sessions.

In addition to the technical presentations, the conference featured high-profile keynote speeches by Shaun Gleason, PhD, director of the Cyber and Applied Data Analytics Division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Robert Ivester, PhD, FSME, director of the Federal Energy Management Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the Department of Energy (DOE), Washington, D.C.; Michael Molnar, FSME, CMfgE, PE, founding director of the Office of Advanced Manufacturing at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, Md.; Susan Smyth, PhD, FSME, NAE, advisor, National Science Foundation (NSF), Alexandria, Va., and U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.; and Alan Taub, PhD, FSME, professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., and senior technical advisor, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), Detroit. The speeches covered emerging topics ranging from cyberphysical security to policies and initiatives that affect the future of manufacturing in the U.S. to energy efficiency and conservation to current innovations in manufacturing systems and materials.
This year’s conference also featured several special events, including an NSF Proposal Writing Workshop; NAMRC Student Research Competition; ASME Student Manufacturing Design Competition; ASME’s Women in Advanced Manufacturing Forum; an Early Career Forum; a Federal Agencies’ Perspective on Advanced Manufacturing Session; a What’s New at NSF – Update from the NSF Program Directors Panel; the NIST Reusable Abstractions of Manufacturing Processes (RAMP) Competition and Workshop; and an Advanced Polymer Composites and Manufacturing for the Circular Economy Workshop.

Moreover, NAMRC 47 was the forum for SME’s third-annual David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award and Blue Sky Competition, funded by the NSF. The competition aims to identify areas of emphasis in manufacturing research and education and catalyze support for a vision of the future of U.S. manufacturing. From the seven finalists, Sudhanshu Nahata, PhD, from ASML U.S., Wilton, Conn., was selected as the 2019 winner for his presentation, “Computer Games as a Future of Manufacturing Education.” The selection committee consisted of 12 members representing industry and government agencies.

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During the 2019 NAMRI | SME Awards Luncheon, the 2018-19 NAMRI | SME Board of Directors were recognized for their support, participation and oversight.

In addition to the technical sessions, special events and keynote speeches, NAMRC 47/MSEC 2019 featured eight industry tours offered by five Erie-area manufacturing facilities: Acutec Precision Aerospace, Berry Plastics, ERIEZ Magnetics, McInnis Rolled Rings and Modern Industries.

Acutec Precision Aerospace hosted conference attendees on Tuesday night for dinner, facility tours and breakout sessions. Its climate-controlled 310,000 ft2 (28,800 m2) facility in nearby Meadville, Pa., houses all of Acutec’s simple turning, EDM, grinding, cellular manufacturing, metal joining and assembly operations. It also houses NDT testing, chemical processing and paint. With Lojic, an in-house company-developed software, Acutec leverages live data to continuously improve processes across a library of 8,500 different parts and assemblies. Elisabeth Smith, the company’s president and CEO, was presented with a certificate of appreciation from NAMRC/SME by Hitomi Yamaguchi Greenslet, Dr. Eng., FSME, the 2018-19 president of NAMRI | SME, during the welcome reception.

The NAMRC 47/MSEC 2019 conference also showcased the applied manufacturing-oriented research of Penn State Behrend. The college hosted the “Behrend Night Out” social event at its Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center. The event included dinner, featuring local breweries and wineries, as well as lab/facility tours. As part of one of the country’s foremost public institutions, Penn State Behrend has state-of-the-art laboratory facilities that are made available to business and industry partners as part of the college’s open-laboratory environment in which external partners innovate side-by-side with academic researchers and students.

Attendees of the Behrend Night Out event also had the opportunity to visit the largest academic plastics processing laboratory in the U.S., located in the college’s School of Engineering. They also had the chance to visit the research and development laboratory of HERO BX located in AMIC; the Erie-based company is the largest producer of biodiesel in the eastern U.S.

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Acutec President and CEO Elisabeth Smith (middle) was presented with a certificate of appreciation by 2018-19 NAMRI | SME President Hitomi Yamaguchi Greenslet (left) and NAMRC 47 chair Ihab Ragai (right) during the welcome reception.

This conference’s success would not have been possible without the tremendous support and generosity of both local industries and national and international manufacturing organizations. We celebrated a record high number of industrial sponsors this year with 27 sponsors, 19 from local industries. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to Acutec Aerospace; Manufacturing USA; NSF; GE Transportation (a Wabtec Co.); LIFT; Erie’s Bayfront Convention Center; Essentra; LORD Corp.; Penn State Behrend; Modern Industries; National Fuel; PNC Bank; Truck-Lite; Erie Promotions & Expos Inc.; NAMRI | SME; Penelec, A FirstEnergy Co.; Lascar Electronics; Kistler; Cummins; Penn State Behrend MMM Program; Translogistics; Springer; ASME; Advanced Finishing USA; Elwood National Forge; Archi-Texture Finishing; and The Erie Community Foundation.

On behalf of the entire Behrend and Erie community, we hope we provided a welcoming and productive environment and look forward to the continued success of future NAMRC/MSEC conferences.

NAMRC 48 will be held June 22-26, 2020, at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati. Register at sme.org/namrc.

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