CWRU part of new national manufacturing effort

Focus on lightweight metals for transportation, military and more

Case Western Reserve University will contribute expertise and key facilities to a $148 million lightweight metal manufacturing research consortium that President Barack Obama announced yesterday.

“I don’t want the next big job-creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan. I want it to be made here in America,” Obama said during the announcement.

Primarily sponsored by the Department of Defense, the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute will be led by Columbus-based Edison Welding Institute, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. The institute, called ALMMII for short, is expected to bring 10,000 jobs to this region over the next five years.

Headquartered near Detroit, the public-private institute includes more than 60 companies, universities and nonprofits from around the country. Its goal is to grow a regional ecosystem of education, innovation and production of state-of-the-art materials for consumers, businesses and the nation’s armed forces.

Case Western Reserve brings renowned scholarly leadership in materials and extensive processing capacity to the landmark effort. Its Case Metals Processing Laboratory, for example, includes a 350-ton metal squeeze caster, induction furnaces and magnesium melting capability, and an array of alloy development and deformation processing facilities.

“Leading our efforts will likely be two faculty with longstanding expertise in lightweight metals, John Lewandowski and Gerhard Welsch, and metals casting research faculty member David Schwam,” said James McGuffin-Cawley chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at CWRU.

“We also have two new young metallurgists on faculty, Jennifer Carter and Matthew Willard, with relevant interests and expertise,” McGuffin-Cawley said. “For the university, area manufacturing and the national effort, the timing of these new hires couldn’t be better.”

Case Western Reserve’s participation in ALMMII represents a logical extension of the university’s leadership role in Youngstown-based America Makes, formerly known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Using funding through America Makes, Case School of Engineering and Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric and partners are developing a three-dimensional manufacturing process for titanium—a metal with a high strength-to-weight ratio.

“This is yet another step in the staircase to revive manufacturing in the U.S. and across this region,” McGuffin-Cawley said.

He has long argued that strength in manufacturing feeds the creativity and innovations needed to keep regional and national economies strong.

After shedding jobs for a decade, U.S. manufacturers have added 622,000 jobs since early 2010, including more than 80,000 over the past four months, according to a White House press release announcing the effort. Manufacturing production is growing at its fastest pace in more than a decade, and Obama said he is committed to building on that progress.

Building on the success of America Makes, the pilot for the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, the administration launched competitions for ALMMI and two more institutes with a federal commitment of $200 million across five agencies—the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, NASA and the National Science Foundation—in May 2013.

ALMMII is charged with moving advanced lightweight metals from the research lab into tomorrow’s cars, trucks, airplanes and ships. Lighter vehicles for the military, industry and consumers, alike, have better performance and use less fuel. They can carry larger loads and travel the same distances at lower cost and with fewer carbon emissions.

Case Western Reserve is already working on other complementary projects. With America Makes funding, the university leads a national effort to develop additive manufacturing methods to extend the life of heavy machine tools, such as dies used to make engine blocks for automobiles, or to make design alterations, instead of spending up to $1 million or more to make a new die.

Carnegie Mellon University and Case Western Reserve also are leading a research program aimed at learning how to control and understand microstructure and mechanical properties of parts made with two kinds of additive manufacturing to ensure parts qualify for aerospace, medical and other uses.

Further, the university is a partner in a $1.8 million Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration program, led by N.E.O. Foundation of Cleveland and Medina County Workforce Development. The goal is to align educational services with the needs of new manufacturing operations.

The federal government will invest $70 million in ALMMII, with more than $70 million more in matching funds from private and other public sources.

Other academic and research institutions involved in the effort reach from Massachusetts to Tennessee, Texas and Colorado. Other Ohio members of ALMMII are Battelle Memorial Institute and University of Dayton Research Institute.