MAE impact on industry
The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) has a long history of major impact on a variety of industries through research and technology development. This work has been enabled through robust engagement and support from industry sponsors and partners that spans from our Capstone design courses with many projects directly tackling real industry problems, to major consortia involving up to 75 companies centered on research activities that address critical challenges in the design, manufacturing, and deployment of engineering systems. In the last year alone MAE activities were supported by over $9.6M in industry research expenditures. Engaging with and enhancing local and national industry partners is paramount to our mission as a major land grant University. Below we highlight three examples on how the unique and inter-disciplinary expertise and capabilities of MAE research labs are making direct societal impact and addressing major challenges in a variety of industries.
The Center for Smart Vehicle Concepts (SVC), led by Dr. Marcelo Dapino, is recognized for its focus on basic and applied research, engineering education, and technology transfer in the area of smart materials and structures applied to mobility systems. The SVC launched in 2007 as an National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC), and the center successfully completed its Phase III NSF grant in 2023, now becoming a self-sustaining center actively supported through industry memberships. With over 30 lifetime members, including key companies and research organizations within the automotive and aerospace sectors, SVC exemplifies a successful model of developing a high impact research, training and technology development. The center that started with major NSF support and became self-sustaining through three-way partnerships involving industry, federal agencies and academia. SVC has maintained high levels of corporate membership and research funding while completing all three phases as an NSF IUCRC. These activities have led to a strong record of productivity and impact through the lifetime of the center, generating over 550 publications; over 400 graduate students supported through SVC projects, collaborations, industry internships, and seed grants including more than 220 PhDs; and nearly 50 patent applications with 16 patents already issued to SVC researchers.
The Dynamic Mechanics of Materials Lab (DMML) in MAE, led by Prof. Amos Gilat, is well-known for their unique capabilities to study the deformation and failure of materials under extreme loading conditions, especially very high strain rate testing (i.e. impact testing) where a test lasts a fraction of a millisecond. This includes optical measurement of deformation with the world’s fastest camera which is capturing images up to 10 million frames per seconds. Testing engineering materials at these very high loading rates and understanding the failure mechanisms is critical to developing engineering systems, such as projectile blast and projectile resistant armor, spacecraft and structures that can withstand debris impact and materials that can withstand extreme mechanical loads and temperatures in jet engines. Because of their unique capabilities, DMML is regularly engaged with leaders in the automotive, aerospace and manufacturing sectors. These sectors include, Honda, General Motors, Chrysler, Pratt & Whitney, Boeing, General Electric Aviation and Procter & Gamble. DMML’s expertise enables their partners to develop material models that lead to better product performance across these prevalent industry sectors.
The Gear Lab in MAE, led by Prof. Ahmet Kahraman and David Talbot, is an internationally recognized leader in the design, modeling and characterization of gear transmission systems. They perform multi-disciplinary experimental and theoretical research in dynamics, design, tribology, fatigue, fluid mechanics, materials and manufacturing to develop validated design and analysis tools. These tools have made a major impact towards achieving key long-term technological goals of the power transmission and gearing industry, which include: (i) increasing power density, (ii) improving reliability, (iii) reducing noise and vibration, and (iv) increasing power transmission efficiency. Over the last four decades, design tools developed by the Gear Lab allowed companies to make significant efficiency and noise improvement for their powertrains while maintaining critical durability attributes. These tools continue to
play a critical role for the automotive industry in developing quiet and efficient electric vehicle drivetrains. This impact is enabled in part through an industrial research consortium led by the Gear Lab that includes 75 companies and government agencies from automotive, aerospace, off-highway/heavy industries, manufacturing, oil and gas, recreational vehicles and software sectors. In addition to the Consortium, Gear Lab is funded through individual grants from various companies such as GM, Ford, Stellantis, Eaton, John Deere, Moog, Allison Transmission, Komatsu and Hyundai, as well as the Pratt & Whitney Center of Excellence on Gearbox Technology.