UA to help establish national manufacturing institute


Because of its well-known expertise in several engineering and manufacturing disciplines, including mechanical, corrosion and polymer engineering, as well as research, development and technology commercialization, The University of Akron has been selected to be a key collaborator in the pilot program of a major national effort to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing industry. An announcement introducing this pilot effort was made today at M-7 Technologies in Youngstown.

Mukerrem "Miko" Cakmak, left, and George K. Haritos represented The University of Akron at the Aug. 16 announcement of the new National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Representing UA at the announcement were George K. Haritos, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering, and Mukerrem “Miko” Cakmak, Ph.D., distinguished professor of polymer science and director of UA’s National Polymer Innovation Center (NPIC).

Boosting competitive edge

The TechBelt Regional Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (AMII) is part of President Barack Obama's new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) program announced last March. The NNMI would be the catalyst for a network of up to 15 Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation around the country, each serving as a hub of manufacturing excellence that will help make U.S. manufacturing facilities and enterprises more competitive while encouraging investment in them as well. Additive manufacturing was deemed as the technical focus of the pilot institute.

Additive manufacturing, the science of manufacturing three-dimensional, functional objects, is a rapidly growing technology being used to create usable parts for industries such as aerospace, energy, medical and consumer products. A revolutionary suite of manufacturing technologies for building up parts, and potentially entire systems, AM creates these systems in a layer-by-layer fashion, placing material precisely as directed by a 3D digital file. It also is being touted for its cost savings and waste reduction.

Each Institute of Manufacturing Innovation (IMI) will be competitively selected. The proposal by UA and its partners in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia for the pilot institute stood out among a host of other industrial and academic partnership proposals.

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UA's strengths in various engineering disciplines – particularly the "multi-layering" of polymer films and multiple electronic printing technologies available in its National Polymer Innovation Center (NPIC), corrosion engineering and finishing the surfaces of materials – make it uniquely positioned to play a major role in the AMII, says Haritos.

UA expertise to play critical role

"Three of our centers – NPIC, the Center for Surface Engineering Research and the National Center for Education Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance – are well-aligned to bring together the University's expertise in critical areas being addressed by this initiative," Haritos says. AMII will serve to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets to help companies access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an unparalleled environment to educate students and train workers in advanced manufacturing skills.

"This is the culmination of many years of building roll-to-roll manufacturing capabilities within the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and represents a great opportunity for us and the College of Engineering to work collaboratively to enable further development of this exciting area of advanced manufacturing. This also has great implications for regional cluster building for flexible electronics industry," says Cakmak.

UA's part of the winning proposal was a collaborative effort between the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and the College of Engineering. Proposal and technical team members included Cakmak; Bryan Vogt, Ph.D., associate professor of polymer engineering; Jae-Won Choi, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering; David Simmons, Ph.D., assistant professor of polymer engineering; and Ajay Mahajan, Ph.D., associate dean for research in the College of Engineering.

UA's leadership in technology transfer and research commercialization also plays a large role in the University's attractiveness to industry and academic partners, adds Haritos. Additive manufacturing is of interest to the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce and other participating agencies. The institute will seek to promote development and deployment of innovative, cost-effective, energy-efficient materials and manufacturing technologies to meet both defense and commercial needs.

The goal of the institute is to increase the successful transition of additive manufacturing technology through advanced innovation, which will create an adaptive workforce capable of meeting industry needs, further increase domestic competitiveness, and meet the requirements of DoD, Commerce, DOE and other agency objectives.

Partners represent all sectors

The NNMI brings together industry, research universities and community colleges, federal agencies and states to accelerate innovation and provide cutting-edge research and education. The TechBelt regional AMII is made up of seven research universities. Participating educational institutions from Northeast Ohio include UA, Case Western Reserve and Youngstown State universities, and Lorain County Community College, along with numerous industry partners, government agencies and service providers throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Those institutions include Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Penn State and Lehigh universities.

The NNMI will be managed collaboratively by the DoD, DOE, National Institute for Standards and Technology,  National Science Foundation and other agencies. Industry, state, academic and other organizations will co-invest in the institutes along with the NNMI program.

Media contact: Laura Massie, 330-972-6476 or