The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the University of Kentucky, and the U.S. Army have announced a new five-year, $50 million advanced manufacturing project aimed at developing the next generation of military equipment.
The project will focus on improving materials and manufacturing methods that could significantly advance capabilities of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory, including developing the next generation of vehicles, increasing the distance of its long-range arsenal, and exploring designs for vertical lift vehicles of the future.
“UT is at the forefront of advanced materials and manufacturing research and expertise,” said Chancellor Dr. Donde Plowman. “Collaborating on a significant project for the Army is just one way our flagship land-grant institution is contributing to the economic prosperity of the state and safety of our nation. I know our faculty and students on our campus in Knoxville, and at the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma, are excited to use their knowledge and work to make a lasting impact in our local communities and our country. We appreciate Senator Marsha Blackburn’s leadership in sponsoring this important work.”
The project will not only enhance military capabilities but also contribute to civilian applications and workforce training that will spur economic development in key industries in the region, including aerospace, automotive manufacturing, and energy production.
UT System President Randy Boyd said, “Thanks to continued support from Senator Marsha Blackburn, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is continuing to compete for and contribute to significant areas of advanced materials and manufacturing research – work to support our military and support national security. These kinds of partnerships with universities and corporations across the nation are of the utmost importance for top research universities like UT.”
UT’s contribution will draw on expertise across multiple colleges and departments, including the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma. UTSI was established in 1964 as part of UT and has become an internationally recognized institution for graduate study and research in engineering, physics, mathematics, and aviation systems and has made remarkable contributions at the local, state, national, and global levels.
UT will be working on three areas of focus: hybrid manufacturing methods that combine additive techniques and machining, measurements using advanced metrology approaches, and new materials processing techniques for metals, polymers, ceramics, and composites.
Among the projects that the team will be tackling are the following:
- Producing a new metallic hybrid material that will be stronger, lighter, and more durable than traditional materials
- Integrating advanced manufacturing methods to help improve the speed of production processes and drive down costs
- Exploring flash processing of steel with novel properties to create structurally sound materials that both weigh and cost less
- Researching the machining and surface finishing of materials produced through advanced manufacturing to create a more refined and precise final product
- Developing more durable high-performing metals for unmanned aerial vehicles
- Developing new materials for hypersonics
The project will be led by Senior Director for Space and Defense Programs Bruce LaMattina. Additional faculty members are working on the project:
- Suresh Babu, UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing and Director of the UT–ORNL Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education
- Uday Vaidya, UT–ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing
- Lino Costa, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering
- Mark Dadmun, Professor in the Department of Chemistry
- Eric Lass, Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering
- Trevor Moeller, Jack D. Whitfield Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering
- Orlando Rios, Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering
- Tony Schmitz, Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering
“Being able to provide research and open new avenues of discovery in ways that impact our national security is a challenge that we take with great pride and honor,” said Dr. Matthew Mench, dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of UT’s Tickle College of Engineering. “Having the ability to create a team that draws upon expertise from across our university is a testament to the work we’re already doing, and a solid foundation for what we hope to accomplish.”
The project also includes connections with industrial partners across six states, five of which are in the Southeast: Oshkosh Defense of Jefferson City, Tennessee; Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries of Bell County, Kentucky; MELD Manufacturing Corporation of Christiansburg, Virginia; Corvid Technologies of Charlotte, North Carolina; Dynetics, of Alabama; BAE Systems, with locations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Alabama; and Flash Steelworks, of Michigan.
UT and UK will each develop and test metallic hybrid materials, finding the optimal blend of additive and subtractive manufacturing and flash processing of steels with unique properties like enhanced ballistic resistance.
UK researchers will pursue smart sustainable hybrid manufacturing processes, including new nanostructured metal alloys, new chemistries for additively manufactured high-strength polymers, and novel processing–microstructure–performance models of ceramic composites for hypersonic applications.
The Army supports collaboration across academia, industry leaders, and the area’s workforce to make advancements.
“The exciting thing about this program is that it is combining fundamental research from universities with the cutting-edge R&D of small companies along with knowledge and expertise from defense contractors and the leadership of Army scientists,” said Bryan Cheeseman, one of the Army’s co-leads on the project. “The teamwork and collaboration are key to accelerating innovation and rapidly transitioning the latest technology to the Warfighter.”
“This is a momentous collaborative research effort among two flagship universities, regional industries, and the Army Research Laboratory,” said Jian Yu, the ARL cooperative agreement manager for UT. “Unlike other governmental grants, this program offers a fast track for new technology development and transition to the Army applications, executing the Army Future Command’s modernization vision. At the same time, the program also develops the next generation of civil workforce for advanced manufacturing in the Tennessee Valley region.”