San Antonio — Feb. 26, 2014 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is part of a team selected to establish a Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Institute (LM3I) announced Feb. 25 at the White House as part of President Barack Obama’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative. The goal of the initiative is to re-establish the United States as a leader in manufacturing. SwRI’s Dr. Barron Bichon, a senior research engineer in the Mechanical Engineering Division, attended the White House ceremonies.
The LM3I team is led by the Edison Welding Institute, University of Michigan and Ohio State University, and comprises more than 50 companies, universities and other organizations. The new institute, the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), will be established near Detroit.
The goal of the initiative is to expand emerging markets for lightweight materials, create new products and design systems for manufacturing them. These materials are increasingly important to the competitiveness of industries, especially transportation manufacturing. ALMMII is a public-private partnership. Funding for the initiative is approximately $148 million over the next five years, with $70 million provided by the U.S. government and $78 million in cost-sharing.
“One of the themes mentioned by the president and a focus of the ALMMII team is ‘rapid qualification.’ To bring new materials and manufacturing processes to market more quickly, more of the certification testing needs to be done using computer models, which are much cheaper and faster. To do this, we have to be able to trust those models are accurately reproducing the physical experiments they are replacing,” Bichon said.
“By comparing predictions from the model to experimental data, we can statistically compute the confidence — or, conversely, the uncertainty — in the model. When we know how good the model is, we can use it as part of the certification for the new material. This uncertainty quantification, or model validation, is a strength of SwRI’s Probabilistic Mechanics group,” Bichon added.
“SwRI’s role in the new institute is two-fold. First, we will serve as a ‘cross-cut technology leader’ focused on validation and certification. Our mission is to ensure every ALMMII project involving model development also includes a plan to quantify the uncertainty in the model,” Bichon said.
“Second, we will participate technically through ALMMII-funded research. SwRI has been involved in materials research and development for more than 60 years. We expect to play a large role in furthering this initiative to re-energize American manufacturing.”