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At NCMS meeting: three Cs needed for technology transfer.

The operative words for advanced manufacturing today are all spelled with a capital "C" as in Cooperation, Coalition, and Consortium, according to speakers from industry, the government, and academe at the annual meeting and conference of the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS).

All described, in one way or another, how the private and public sectors are trying to find a common voice for what can best be called a "national industrial policy."

Sharing--of resources, information, and research monies, which has been the strong point of programs undertaken by the Ann Arbor-based NCMS in its five years of existence--wasn't the way we all learned about business, however.

"Up until now we've been a Lone Ranger society that learned about business by playing Monopoly or by winning all the marbles out in the backyard as kids," says Dr Peter Likins, president of Lehigh University. The new 21st century manufacturing enterprise will require a new mindset--one in which sharing of resources and information leads to the creation of the "Agile Manufacturing Enterprise" that can deliver "quality in a hurry," says Dr Likins.

What is at stake is nothing less than political dominance, warns William S Dietrich, president and CEO of Dietrich Industries Inc and author of "In the Shadow of the Rising Sun." His paradigm for the next century: "technological mastery creates economic superiority and leads to political dominance."

According to Mr Dietrich, Japan has invested in such a national industrial policy. It is high-tech, high-value-added, and requires a professional bureaucracy in government. It is targeting market dominance in computers, microelectronics, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.

"Such a policy for the US would require national sacrifice, lower consumption, and high levels of savings and commitment to limited interference in markets," says Mr Dietrich. "The sole judge of the success of such a national industrial policy would be the international marketplace." Countries that don't measure up will become "second- and third-tier producers of lower-tech products (steel, autos, and appliances) and agricultural products," he says.

You can't talk about jobs without talking about business and industry, and you can't talk about them without addressing the pressing educational needs of our society, Michigan governor John Engler told the NCMS attendees. One major challenge facing the nation is "merging the educational experience with the reality of the workplace."

"We have the best universities and the greatest advantage because of the diversity of our peoples," Father William Cunningham, executive director of Detroit's Focus:HOPE told the group. Those are our strengths. "Other than the fact that we're feeding and nurturing the competition as 90% of the PhDs are earned by foreign-born students, our major weaknesses are our K-12 educational system and the lack of fire in our bellies," Father Cunningham said.

The need for a federal funding strategy is nowhere more evident than in the network of manufacturing support centers that exist to give technical assistance to industry, especially smaller and mid-sized companies, through technology transfer. Of the more than 600 or so support centers including various state and local industrial extension centers, and local technical and community colleges, only the five Hollings centers are funded by the federal government.

Federal bucks needed

"That funding amounts to $18 million compared with the $428 million a year in matching funds that the agricultural extensions receive from the federal government," explains Leo Reddy, president, the National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing, Washington.

"When you consider that agriculture produces about 1.6% of GDP and is the envy of the world because of its automation and mechanization while manufacturing produces about 20% of GDP, you can see the disparity," he says. NACFAM's goal is to raise federal funding to the $500 million level to achieve its agenda of programs.

The agenda includes modernizing industrial policy, reprioritizing the federal R&D budget of $76 billion or so annually so that manufacturing gets more than the minuscule 1.5% it currently gets, and recommending tax strategies that affect the cost of capital, especially for smaller companies, such as accelerated depreciation schedules and tax credits for acquisition of equipment.

NCMS success pattern

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences is an excellent example of how a public-private partnership has been able to leverage funding and cooperation into consortial research on technology and advanced manufacturing solutions. The result is intellectual property that is shared throughout the participating industry segments.

In the five years of its existence, NCMS has grown to more than 160 members employing almost 2 million people at 275 locations across the country. Its annual budget has grown from less than $5 million to one of $150 million for 1992.

According to James L Koontz (president of Kingsbury Machine Tool Corp), a driving force in the launching of the organization who stepped down as chairman, NCMS has designed programs to tackle the competitive position of every facet of American industry, including education, environment, quality, and advanced manufacturing processes and devices.

NCMS project team efforts on the environmental front:

* Under study is a search for alternatives to the use of lead in solder by electronic firms with the possibility of qualifying a lead-free metal alloy as a replacement for the traditional tin-lead solder.

* A comprehensive database is being designed that describes the physical properties and pertinent environmental information on manufacturing solvents. The goal is to evaluate and find replacements for those that are harmful.

* More than 130 different electronic component materials have been evaluated for compatibility and suitability of new, clean chemicals for assembly processes. Ford, AT&T, GM, and Texas Instruments formed the core of the project.

Production solutions

NCMS has tailored joint research programs to production processes. Here's a sampling of results to date:

One program has led to application of diamond film coatings to tool and machine tool wear surfaces. Other applications, base materials, and other hard coatings, as well as scaling up the process to commercial application, are being investigated.

Advances in the art of milling, turning, and grinding are producing five- to ten-fold increases in production capability and ten- to one-hundred-fold increases in precision.

A project for real-time machine-tool control for high-volume production of pistons and precision parts is an example of the division of responsibilities in a typical project. The four principals are NCMS, GM, Giddings & Lewis, and NIST. GM will define technology needs and validation; Giddings & Lewis will supply the latest piston turning machines; NIST will provide advanced metrology equipment and procedures; and NCMS will facilitate cooperation and technology transfer.

Another project is tackling precision grinding of aerospace parts made from super-alloys and new composites and involves Pratt & Whitney, Campbell Grinder, and the University of Michigan.

A new program that was just announced is a four-year study to advance the state of the art in rapid prototyping technology with an overall goal to establish the optimum process to create functional parts in the shortest possible time, while emphasizing accuracy, surface finish, and reduced processing time.

The prototype of a Next Generation Controller has been demonstrated, with a commercial product slated to be offered by several vendors later this year. This four-year, $26 million program is aimed at stopping the erosion of US manufacturers' controller market share by developing an open architecture system.

The challenge of meeting the quality certification requirements of many different customers has been addressed in NCMS' Achieving Manufacturing Excellence (AME) program (see Tooling & Production, April 1992, "Meeting the Quality Challenge").

The AME self-assessment tool allows a company to evaluate how it stacks up against the best in the world and how it can upgrade itself rapidly and cost effectively.

Mobile learning

The NCMS has adopted a strategy to employ a mobile learning unit called the Manufacturing Technologies Laboratories to reach out to the country's school children. The first Tech Lab was exhibited at the meeting. It featured tabletop technologies including CAD hardware and software, materials removal, robotics, milling, turning, and etching applications. Built at a cost of a little more than $120,000, the Tech Lab is the first of three such vehicles which will be taken into schools to provide a mobile lab for teachers and students to learn more about manufacturing processes and technology.

One of the pet projects that is currently getting off the ground under the aegis of NCMS is the concept of a network of Teaching Factories that would provide a mechanism for transferring technology from research laboratories to local production industries and to train and prepare a workforce for advanced manufacturing processes and equipment.

Eventually 150 Manufacturing Application and Education Centers (MAECs) would comprise the Manufacturing Application and Education Network (MAEN). Currently three MAECs at Marshall University, the University of Missouri-Rolla, and New Mexico State are in operation, with a fourth at the University of Toledo funded through a $5 million grant from the Air Force in the organizational stages.

Accessing federal labs

NCMS and the Department of Energy (DOE) have entered into a unique "master" agreement to facilitate R&D access opportunities for industry at four Defense Program (DP) laboratories: Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, Los Alamos, and Ocak Ridge.

The agreement is a generic Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that involves a one-time agreement permitting multiple R&D projects to be undertaken through a streamlined process of approval of Project Task Statements (PTS) with one or more of the DP labs during the next three years. In addition to streamlining the process, the generic CRADA defines the licensing and property rights to any CRADA-generated research results up front--rather than as a negotiated item after any invention has resulted, as is the practice in a standard CRADA.

The NCMS/DOE agreement is in a trial mode until late August. Enabling PTSs are being developed for four projects: 1) high-power microwave processing and materials; 2) feature-based design; 3) laser welding; 4) heat-treatment modeling.

DOE/DP has dedicated $10 million to CRADA project funding during the three-year period of the DOE/NCMS CRADA project. Contact for more information is John J Sheridan, director of technology sourcing, 313-995-0300; for NCMS membership information, contact Dick Macan.

These advanced technologies and resources were shown at NCMS: Pulse Electrochemical Machining project, Extrude Hone, Irwin, PA/Lehr Precision, Cincinnati, circle 262. Diamond film hardcoatings for machining non-ferrous materials, Crystallume Inc, Menlo Park, CA, circle 284. Thixomolding [TM] process for net shape magnesium casting without molten metal, USP Inc, Ann Arbor, MI, circle 285. Technology for machining, curing, bonding advanced composite materials, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, circle 286. Mechanical CAE software for creating and validating software prototypes before CAD and prototyping, Aries Technology, Lowell, MA, circle 287. Next Generation Inspection System, Pratt & Whitney/UTC, Hartford, CT, circle 288. Technology base for manufacturing and environment available for licensing, Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Oak Ridge, TN, circle 289. Manufacturing assessment, quality, concurrent engineering and product design, and technology transfer, M, Ann Arbor, MI, circle 290. Training programs for high-tech systems and equipment, RAD Technologies Inc, Troy, MI, circle 291. Next Generation Abrasive Waterjet Technology, Quest Integrated Inc, Kent, WA, circle 292. Manufacturing research, technology transfer, and engineering co-op, University of Kentucky, Lexington, circle 293. Adaptive sensoring devices for machine tools, Sensor Adaptive Machines, Windsor, ON, circle 294. Enabler program-executive overview, general purpose software for manufacturing, BRL, Ann Arbor, MI, circle 295. Equipment supplier in the diamond deposition area interested in scaling up the diamond film technology, ASTeX, Woburn, MA, circle 296. Tabletop prototype and production systems used in the mobile learning center, Light Machines, circle 297.
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Title Annotation:National Center for Manufacturing Sciences; cooperation, coalition, consortium
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:US competitiveness: it's a matter of attitude.
Next Article:How to optimize factory power distribution, use.

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