Case Western Reserve University is among the leaders of a consortium that secured a $30 million federal grant to demonstrate ways to improve and expand a process called additive manufacturing.
What is additive manufacturing? The simplest way to explain is to use the example of lasagna. If you've ever seen this Italian staple being made, you understand its essential principle: In building materials by layers, developers can include all manner of unique elements, from technology (the meat) to cushioning (ricotta) to ultra-strong connections (mozzarella) and more.
The model is considered an epic leap from existing factory practices—one that federal officials see as the future of the field. Effective this August, Case Western Reserve is one of the leading partners in an effort to turn nascent applications into widespread practice.
Along with Carnegie Mellon University and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing, Case Western Reserve helped forge partnerships among more than five dozen organizations across Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After an extensive evaluation process involving the Departments of Defense and Commerce, the group won the heated national competition.
"Case Western Reserve has a long and proud history of bringing discoveries to market," says Provost W.A. "Bud" Baeslack III, a professor of materials science and engineering. "We are honored by this opportunity and look forward to collaborating with this outstanding group of university, nonprofit and industry partners."
Together the organizations now compose the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Among the method's potential advantages are energy reductions of more than 50 percent and cost savings of at least 10 percent. The consortium's mission is to identify and execute innovations in this area that enhance efficiency, create new products and advance economic growth.
"The process of collaboration among our partners to develop this proposal already has highlighted natural synergies and new opportunities to meet the needs of business, the military and other sectors that would benefit from this technology," Case School of Engineering Dean Jeffrey L. Duerk says. "Our faculty look forward to realizing the promise that this investment has for our university, region and industry."