RAPID CITY, S.D. (July 1, 2013) - Two new Governor Research Centers are headed to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, answering the call for industry demand and bringing the potential for significant economic development within the state.
Each awarded $2 million over the next five years, the centers will focus on advanced manufacturing techniques with ultimate application uses in the automotive, aerospace, energy, construction and other industries.
The new Governor Research Centers are Advanced Manufacturing Process Technology Transition & Training (AMPTEC), under the direction of Christian Widener, Ph.D., and Composite & Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing (CNAM), under the direction of David Salem, Ph.D.
The centers were chosen based on their ability to establish and build upon industry relationships and have a strong potential for commercialization, according to Paul Turman, vice president for research and economic development at the South Dakota Board of Regents, which announced the new research centers on Monday.
"These two new centers will continue to expand Mines' research in materials and manufacturing," Heather Wilson, D.Phil, president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, said. "Dr. Widener and Dr. Salem who are leading these efforts are doing a great job and we are proud to have them at Mines."
Widener has brought Mines to the cutting-edge of cold-spray technology, involving accelerating particles at super-sonic speed, which through his applications development efforts will save the U.S. military millions of dollars in refurbishments to the B-1 bomber. He is also director of another Governor Research Center, the Repair, Refurbish and Return to Service Center known as R3S.
Widener's new center will focus on continuing to develop advanced manufacturing technologies, leveraging on the successes of the R3S, but with a focus on direct partnerships with industry to commercialize specific applications and processes.
Specifically, the AMPTEC center is developing an advanced six-axis manufacturing center that will be capable of both additive and subtractive processes, and "will bring unique world-class capabilities in advanced manufacturing to the state," Widener said.
"AMPTEC is positioning itself to be on the cutting edge of our national initiatives for developing advanced and additive manufacturing in the U.S.," he said. Like the cold-spray technology, applications arising from the new center will include the aerospace component repair, next generation durable coatings for extreme service conditions and additive manufacturing.
In addition to the $2 million in funding from the state, the AMPTEC Center has secured matching funds commitments from industry for a total of $4 million to jointly develop, license and commercialize technology from the School of Mines. A new manufacturing startup, VRC Metal Systems, was initiated to begin making cold spray and laser powder deposition equipment in Rapid City and is licensing a cold spray patent from the School of Mines.
VRC is projecting $1 million in sales after its first year, according to Widener, whose new center is also partnering with several small existing businesses in South Dakota, such as HFW Friction Stir Welding, Flexible Robotic Environment and Daktronics, and large corporations, such as MOOG, Nordson Xaloy, Kondex, Pure Fishing and New Tech Ceramics.
"The Composite & Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing Center (CNAM) is poised to meet the urgent commercial need for strong, lightweight, multifunctional composite and nanocomposite structures at high volume and low cost," said Salem, adding recent advances make the commercialization feasible on an aggressive timetable.
"Numerous market sectors are now demanding materials with an improved strength-to-weight ratio, often in combination with other tailored functionalists, which is driving the need for fast and efficient composite manufacturing methods and low-cost raw materials," Salem said.
In the automotive industry, this could include structural and engine components that will meet the 54.5 miles-to-the-gallon vehicle standards. In the energy industry, research could lead to a new generation of wind blades, tidal turbines, storage vessels and pipelines. In the construction industry, results could yield lightweight composite building materials, including building blocks, beams and panels.
The CNAM center is already working with nine leading companies, Continental Structural Plastics, Falcon Plastics, Innegra Technologies, Litzler Company, Owens Corning, PolyOne Corp, Raven Industries, SGL Group and Steelcase. Five of them are multibillion-dollar corporations, and two (Raven Industries and Falcon Plastics) are leading South Dakota corporations.
"These companies have the wherewithal to commercialize the technology rapidly and to bring manufacturing jobs to the state, which will become increasingly recognized as a hub for composites manufacturing innovation," Salem said.
South Dakota State University is also partnering as subcontractors with the two new School of Mines centers. For AMPTEC, the SDSU site lead is Fereidoon Delfanian, Ph.D., a professor in the mechanical engineering department and director of the METLAB. For CNAM, the SDSU site lead is Zhong Hu, Ph.D., a professor in the mechanical engineering department. Also, Grigoriy Sereda, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of South Dakota's chemistry department, is the USD site lead for the CNAM center.
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls more than 2,400 students from 32 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for 2012 graduates was $62,696 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu.