October 15, 2015

CHICAGO – October 15, 2015 – The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration established in 2014, announced today that it has issued its first five national contract research awards. The contracts are valued at more than $7 million, include 14 DMDII partners from across the United States, and will fund research aimed at advancing the field of digital manufacturing and design. Over the next three years, DMDII anticipates having a portfolio of sponsored research projects, spread out over dozens of project call topics and hundreds of institute members.

Five prime contractors from five states have received awards. Prime contractors include Green Dynamics Inc. in California, STEP Tools, Inc. in New York, Product Development & Analysis (PDA) LLC in Illinois, the Design Automation Lab of Arizona State University, and Oregon State University. Each prime contractor has assembled a team of subprime contractors, ranging from major U.S. manufacturers, small- and medium-sized businesses, software development firms, and academic institutions. Of the 14 contracted parties, three are large companies, four are small and medium manufacturers, five are universities and two are non-governmental organizations.

The five awards include the first of several contracts in DMDII’s strategic investment plan and technology roadmap. The industry-driven technology roadmap is aligned with the Department of Defense’s strategic manufacturing base goals and aims to create a technology platform across all manufacturing processes, focusing on three key areas of technology research and demonstration: Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise, Intelligent Machining and Advanced Analysis.

“These contract awards represent a huge milestone for DMDII,” said Dr. Dean Bartles, the Chief Manufacturing Officer at UI LABS and Executive Director of DMDII. “After developing an infrastructure that fosters collaboration and innovation, we’re now launching our first research projects that promise to make American manufacturers more competitive and improve their bottom line. Along with our cooperative partners at the Department of Defense, we’re excited to continue the forward momentum, and we’re looking forward to sponsoring new projects and announcing more contracts in the future.”

“These awards highlight that our collaborative innovation model is working,” said Dr. Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI LABS. “We see a bright future for industry-led consortia to solve large-scale societal challenges to close the gap between innovation and commercialization.”

The awards will sponsor research projects to develop software, tools and industry-changing solutions aimed at lowering production costs by increasing the speed and efficiency of a variety of manufacturing processes. Four of the five awards are funded by the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“The work performed through DMDII’s first contract awards will allow us to mitigate the big issues of interoperability and manual systems that will lead to saving defense and domestic manufacturers significant resources currently lost to time and cost overruns,” said Dr. Greg Harris, DMDII’s Program Manager through the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.

“We are developing a ‘digital thread’ across all facets of the manufacturing process,” said George Barnych, DMDII’s Director of Research & Development Programs. “The first five awards begin to develop key technologies that will allow us to ‘stitch together’ the digital thread from the front end of design all the way through the production process and supply logistics.”

Barnych continued, “This is a major step in bringing together the best and the brightest from the private, public and academic sectors to reshape the landscape of manufacturing in our country.”

DMDII’s first five contract awards are as follows:

Structural Composites – Blade Multidisciplinary Design and Analysis –14-01-06
Lead Organization: Green Dynamics Inc.
Other Organizations on this Team: MetaMorph Inc.; University of Delaware; Vanderbilt University; PTC, Inc.; MSC Software Corporation; Pennsylvania State University, Applied Research Laboratory

Partners will work together to integrate a suite of analysis tools under a common intuitive user interface specifically focused on wind turbines. Successful implementation of this software approach will reduce barriers to entry for smaller composite material developers and shorten cycle times for current manufacturers all while providing a comprehensive cost and manufacturing model to prevent overruns.

Mind the Gap – Filling the Gap between CAD and CNC with Engineering Services – 14-02-02
Lead Organization: STEP Tools, Inc.
Other Organizations on this Team: Penn State ARL, Vanderbilt University

The Mind the Gap project aims to develop and deliver cloud services to optimize and monitor computer-controlled (CNC) machining. The new services will operate on 3D digital models, which are easier to share and modify than traditional code-based models.

Automated Assembly Planning: From CAD model to Virtual Assembly Process – 14-02-04
Lead Organization: Oregon State University
Other Organizations on this Team: ESI North America

This project aims to develop a computational tool to automatically transform a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) assembly into a set of assembly instructions with as little initial user commitment as possible. Quick predictions of an assembly plan will provide feedback to both design and industrial engineers so that they can see how their decisions impact assembly time and cost. For manufacturing companies that choose to use the developed toolset, it could result in millions of dollars in savings.

Automatic Tolerancing of Mechanical Assemblies from STEP AP203: Completion of Adaptive Vehicle Make Tasks – 14-02-05
Lead Organization: Design Automation Lab, Arizona State University

This project will investigate algorithms to automate tolerance synthesis of mechanical assemblies. This will include first order Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) based only on geometric conditions for assemblability and partial support for second order (based on limited design intent, viz. fits and fasteners). This will result in lower product cost due to better tolerance control, lower scrap rate, and quicker product development time by reducing trial and error in tolerance allocation.

Intelligent Adaptive Machining Fixtures for Castings (IAMFixR) – 14-07-03
Lead Organization: Product Development & Analysis (PDA) LLC
Other Organizations on this Team: Arizona State University’s Design Automation Lab, American Foundry Society, Steel Founders’ Society of America

A collaboration between a metal casting contract manufacturer and an academic research lab, the goal of this project is to develop a set of methods and a software enabler, called “IAMFixR” to reduce the setup time for machining of large castings and fabrications and to virtually eliminate scrapping any of these high value parts. The team aims to incorporate the casting industry standard into a 3D model and use digital technology to capture the changing dimensions of features critical to machining operation for every part produced in a production environment.

The five applied research and demonstration projects will take between 12-18 months to complete.

The Case Study below shows the collaboration of Green Dynamics, Inc., prime contractor of Project 14-01-06. This story highlights the “teaming” effort amongst DMDII members to solve for large technical solutions.

DMDII Project 14-01-06 Case Study


UI LABS solves large-scale societal challenges by forming industry-driven consortia to close the gap between innovation and commercialization. UI LABS is developing a portfolio of applied research and commercialization Labs that lead to a return on investment for its partners, improve local, regional and national competitiveness, and transform entire industries.

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) is UI LABS’ first Lab. DMDII is revitalizing American manufacturing, by helping U.S. manufacturers to harness data to make their products better, faster, and more cost competitive. Learn more at www.uilabs.org andwww.dmdii.org