Innovation Without Borders

Imagine a world where you can control a robot’s actions with your brain waves.

Imagine no more.

Global academic manufacturing leaders shared that discovery and others as they explored European and American manufacturing perspectives at ISD’s thought-provoking workshop, “Exploring the Manufacturing Landscape: A Transatlantic Approach,” from June 10-12, 2024, Ford Motor Company Robotics Center, University of Michigan.

Dr. Miki Banu, who is the ISD Faculty Director and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, hosted U-M College of Engineering faculty and students as well as leading academic manufacturing experts Dr. Lihui Wang from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and Dr. Verena Krausel and Dr. Philipp Klimant from Fraunhofer, Germany. Joining from the University of Galati, Romania, were leading academic experts Dr. Felicia Stan and Dr. Catalin Fetecau. 

Participants contributed to the exchange of knowledge and engaged in rich discussions on the latest in manufacturing practices and their impact on education and industries. They enjoyed extensive lab tours and engaged in preliminary discussions, setting the stage for immersive presentations and insights from various angles of modern manufacturing.

Highlighting the workshop’s avant-garde subject matter, a discourse on everything from “inline inspection” to “automation and remote support” drew attention to the event’s cutting-edge global manufacturing research focus.

“We don’t have borders when we talk about science and engineering,” Dr. Banu said. “We need global approaches to solving problems. The point of our workshop today is to collectively learn how to scale up.” 

Dr. Lihui Wang presented a stimulating introduction to KTH’s perspective on Smart Manufacturing and a Research & Development roadmap, which included updates on 4D Printing, Deep Learning, CPS & Digital Twin, and Human-Robot Collaboration. Under the title of Robotics Research, he shared four areas: Human-Robot Collaboration, Minimizing Energy Consumption for Robot Movement, Cloud Robotics, and Remote Assembly. 

“Our goal is to create new knowledge,” Dr. Wang said. “We want to develop careers and increase the sustainability of society.”

Dr. Wang also shared the four pillars of XPRES: Smart Factory, Smart People, Smart Systems, and Smart Processes. He discussed funding distributions among five key areas: Remote Monitoring Control, Remote Assembly, Adaptive, Human Robot Collaboration and Brain Robotics. He shared a video demonstration of a lab researcher using his brain waves to make a robot complete simple commands in a Stimulus-Free Brain Wave-Driven HRC assembly.

“The robot cannot do multiple tasks and the individual controlling the robot needs to be trained,” he explained. 

Next up was an introduction to the Manufacturing of Polymers and Polymer Nanocomposites Center in Romania, emphasizing the burgeoning research and innovation in the polymer sector.

Dr. Felicia Stan shared a brief overview of her CE-PP Research Team and presented many examples of their exciting polymer research projects: Additive and Hybrid Manufacturing, Fabrication of Polymers/CNT Nanocomposite Filaments, 3D Printing of Flexible Polymers/CNT Nanocomposites, Additive Insert Molding, 3D Printing of Polymer Composites Lattice Structures, Closed-Loop Mechanical Recycling of Polymer/CNT Nanocomposites, Mechanical Recycling of Polymer/CNT Nanocomposites, Friction Stir Spot Welding of Spot Welding/CNT Nanocomposites, Characterization of Polymer/CNT Nanocomposites, Rheological Characterization of Polymer/CNT Nanocomposites, Mechanical Characterization of Polymer/CNT Nanocomposites via Nanoindentation, Electrical Characterization of Polymer/CNT Nanocomposites, Numerical Simulation of Materials and Manufacturing Processes, and Bioactive Films with Fibers and Essential Oils for Food Industry.

“Our focus is experimental investigation of electrical conductivity of polymer/CNT nanocomposites for industrial applications,” she said.

Dr. Phillip Klimant spoke next. 

He gave a brief overview of the German institutes that make up The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, spotlighting its influential role in European engineering and manufacturing research and development. The entity, which includes more than 30,000 employees and 76 institutes and research units, focuses on key future-relevant technologies and the commercialization of findings in business and industry.

“We are a trailblazer and trendsetter in innovative development,” he said. “We put research into practice. Our mission is to impact the life cycle through production. Our goals are affordable healthcare, a security and resilient society, complete energy transition, and a fully circular economy.”

Dr. Klimant shared competencies and benefits of Fraunhofer research, including custom-fit solutions and constantly updated scientific input, and talked directly to the attending students.

“We are constantly looking for new PhD students to earn money and gain insights,” he said. “Our PhD programs are longer, a minimum of six years.”

Dr. Verena Krause delivered a comprehensive lecture on Fundamentals About Mechanical Joining Processes. Her presentation focused on innovative trends in sheet and bulk metal forming.

Areas included were Clinching-Rigid Tools, Clinching Movable Tool Components, Joining Movable Tool Components, Direct Screwing (Flow Drilling Screws and Thread Forming Screws), Research Trends, Cast Aluminum, Simulation, Prognosis Tools Based on AI and Meta Models, and Mechanical Joining Predictions.

“There is a constantly increasing demand for light materials in the automotive industry, especially aluminum castings,” she said.

Challenges include materials with limited ductility and restricted where cracks in joints can occur and die cast often has variable thickness where joining techniques must be applicable by different thicknesses.

“We are testing the strengths of our connections,” she said. “This is a complex field and there is no one solution for all cases.”

The workshop concluded with Dr. Philipp Klimant’s enlightening talk on “Sustainability in Production.” He spoke of Continuous Process Analysis and Component Monitoring; Acquisition, Analysis and Automation; Testing, Technology, and Automation; and Sustainability in Production. 

Under the title of Data Mining and Artificial Intelligence, he talked about Efficient Production Through AI, and Sustainability in Production, Digitalization in Production. Under the title of Anti-Collision System for Machines and Systems, he shared his thoughts on Collision Avoidance for Machine Tools. Under the title of Augmented Reality (AR), he discussed Sustainability in Production, including an integration of human and AR. 

He concluded with a live AR demonstration.

Participants left the workshop with fresh insights, invigorated by the shared commitment to advancing manufacturing education and practices. The transatlantic approach provided a unique lens, creating a breeding ground for innovation that is bound to influence the future of manufacturing on a global scale.

“This workshop was educational and enlightening,” Dr. Klimant said. “We’re always looking for new partners with new ideas and insights. We hope this will further open the gate to the US market for scientific collaboration and direct industry partnerships.”

Bhavana Komaraju, an ISD doctoral student in Manufacturing, said the workshop was valuable. She particularly liked the Fraunhofer presentation because it integrated the business perspective and academics in terms of revenue and manufacturing research. She also enjoyed the University of Galati manufacturing research presentation about 3D printing and CNT tubes.

“It has a lot of real world applications,” she said. “To learn about sustainability initiatives and their vast network is invaluable to students.”

The workshop enabled attendees to delve into presentations and spark collaborative opportunities. The free-flowing question and answer sessions ensured the event did not just impart knowledge, but also laid the groundwork for future innovations and collaborations.