Partnership Aims to Bolster U.S. Industry

Federal initiative and free software focus on improving manufacturing .

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

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On June 24th, President Barack Obama launched an initiative called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). It's a national effort bringing together companies, universities and federal bodies to invest in emerging technologies. The goal is to create high quality manufacturing jobs while enhancing the U.S.'s global competitiveness. The federal government will commit more than $500 million to jumpstart the undertaking, says the White House.

SMEs can get no-fee licenses to powerful design software.

The AMP stems from a recommendation in a report, "Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing," issued that same day by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The partnership will aim to identify the most pressing challenges and transformative opportunities to improve technologies, processes and products across multiple manufacturing industries, says the White House. The AMP will define research openings and will build a roadmap for advanced manufacturing technologies — speeding ideas from the drawing board to the manufacturing floor, scaling up first-of-a-kind technologies, and developing the infrastructure and shared facilities to allow small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate and compete, it adds. (For details on one government group eager to get companies to use its development facility, see "Biofuels Development Gets a Boost").

Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, and Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will lead the AMP. Initial participants in the partnership are Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Dow, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Northrop Grumman, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), and Stryker, as well as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley and Michigan.

The federal government is taking a number of key steps to foster advanced manufacturing, including:

• A government-wide effort will start this summer to leverage existing funds and future budgets — with the goal of coming up with $300 million to co-invest with industry on innovative technologies. Initial thrusts will include small high-powered batteries, advanced composites, bio-manufacturing and alternative energy.

• The Materials Genome Project will invest more than $100 million to allow U.S. companies to discover, develop, manufacture and deploy advanced materials at twice the speed possible today.

• The Department of Energy will aim to come up with an initial $120 million to develop innovative technologies and materials that allow companies to cut the costs of manufacturing while using less energy.

• Several federal bodies jointly will make $70 million available for research on next-generation robotics.

Meanwhile, other participants will be taking complementary steps, such as:

• The universities will develop a framework for sharing educational materials and best practices related to advanced manufacturing and its link to innovation; and

• P&G will make available at no cost to SMEs advanced modeling software. This is a highly valuable digital design tool usually unavailable to such firms, notes the White House.

While many vendors provide programs for selection, sizing, layout, etc., of proprietary equipment, I don't know of any operating company offering generic software free to other firms. So, I decided to find out more from P&G.

"The front-end scripts were written by P&G, but the bulk of the solver code and physics was developed by Los Alamos [National Laboratory]. It was part of our long-standing partnership with Los Alamos," says Tom Lange, the company's director, modeling and simulation.

"The software solves the complex multi-phase turbulent flow, while maintaining an accurate mass balance. The simulation has been found to accurately predict processes at P&G that have a turbulent fluid stream, heavily laden with entrained materials — where the material accumulates at a boundary," he explains. P&G also is providing front-end scripts for analysis of flow in a manifold and container-filling applications, he adds.

"P&G will be providing the front-end scripts to the National Digital Engineering Manufacturing Consortium (NDEMC) portals. These will appear as 'apps' that folks can run… without the expertise typically needed," states Lange, who is also P&G representative to the consortium. NDEMC staff will provide direct software support, he says.

NDEMC began as a pilot in March. Its founding members are P&G, GE, John Deere and Lockheed Martin, as well as several federal and state bodies. It aims to lower the barrier for SMEs, like those typically in the supply chain of Fortune 50 companies, to use simulation and other high performance software — by offering open-source no-fee licenses for some analyses, Lange notes. This should allow SMEs to use such analyses to replace physical tests, he hopes.


MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can e-mail him at mrosenzweig@putman.net

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