New UConn Research Center Provides Reliable Data, Realistic Simulations for Manufacturing Industry

Professors Rainer Hebert and Lesley Frame stand in UConn Tech Park
Rainer Hebert and Lesley Frame from UConn's Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the Innovation Partnership Building at UConn Tech Park. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo).

The University of Connecticut recently launched the Center for Materials Processing Data (CMPD) with their university and industry collaborators.

The center will provide the manufacturing industry with valuable data about how their materials will perform, eliminating much of the time and cost-intensive trial and error upon which the industry has relied for years.

UConn is working with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University at Buffalo, each bringing unique expertise and workforce to the center projects. Another key player is ASM International, one of the world’s largest associations of materials engineers and scientists. ASM International serves as the materials data archive, enabling easy access to data by industry members and non-members.

CMPD works with businesses in the manufacturing industry, like UTC Pratt and Whitney, to provide reliable transient material property data representing how materials respond under dynamic and realistic processing conditions. Currently, industries rely on material data gathered under static conditions that may not accurately reflect the variations in load, temperature, and atmosphere that materials undergo during manufacturing.

“The center provides an opportunity for the materials engineering community to take a deep dive into the specific challenges of gathering transient material property data,” says Lesley Frame, CMPD director and assistant professor in UConn’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “There are three equally important pieces to this goal: the first is generating accurate materials property data; second, we need to curate these data and qualify and compare against published materials data; and third, we need to demonstrate modeling applications of how we can reliably use these data. This is where the center comes in.”

One of UConn’s greatest contributions to the center is the state-of-the-art equipment in its Innovation Partnership Building (IPB) at UConn Tech Park.

“UConn has an arsenal of equipment at IPB that is perfect for gathering dynamic material property data,” Frame says. “We’re able to leverage these resources to answer questions about materials behavior that are very difficult to answer with basic equipment.”

One industry application of the type of data produced through CMPD projects is with digital twins, which are digital replicas of real world entities.  Researchers and industry professionals are beginning to use digital twins of a given material during manufacturing to characterize what is happening to it on a microscopic level as it is processed. The digital twin allows researchers to understand and document changes in structure and properties for materials through a computer model in a way that is just not possible with the physical material itself. However, these digital twins are only as accurate as the data fed into the models. When material data is collected under static conditions, but then fed into a model that is meant to characterize a dynamic material response, there will inevitably be some error in the result. Better data means more reliable models and better predictions of material behavior during processing.

When industry members join CMPD, they have access to every step of the projects. Industry members help to govern the center, they recommend and choose projects, and they continue to advise and participate in projects as they evolve. Industry members also have access to the resulting data.

“The entire field is interested in generating and using more materials data,” Frame says. “There’s an industry-wide shift to be able to model and predict the behaviors of materials rather than doing trial and error for process development.”

UConn’s leadership in CMPD will help further cement the University as a hub for innovation in the fields of manufacturing research and materials engineering, says Pamir Alpay, executive director of the Innovation Partnership Building.

“CMPD is huge in terms of everything we’re doing at IPB on manufacturing technologies. It’s a massive effort that will serve a large community and it will make a big impact. It will become a point of priority for UConn.”

 

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