WPI Forges New Link in Metal Processing Research

Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - More than 80 companies joined Worcester Polytechnic Institute in celebrating the opening of its Center for Heat Treating Excellence this week. The center is an industry-university partnership devoted to increasing knowledge and innovation by collaborating on research and development.

The center is the next link in WPI's Metal Processing Institute, an organization that has included research centers for aluminum casting, powder metallurgy and semisolid materials processing.

"The new Center for Heat Treating Excellence closes the loop," said Executive Director Diran Apelian, WPI's Howmet professor of engineering and director of the Metal Processing Institute. "It is the last link in our research centers for metal processing."

Through its centers, the university completes research in cooperation with industry. The Metal Processing Institute has attracted more than 120 members from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

The thermal-processing industry is composed of corporations that manufacture heat-treating furnaces, shops that carry out heat treating, and major manufacturers of industrial equipment including Timken, John Deere and Caterpillar.

"In essence, heat treating is the process of using thermal energy to modify and alter the microstructure of a metal component to optimize its mechanical properties," explains Apelian. "The Center of Heat Treating Excellence, with its 55-plus corporate partners, along with the three other net-shape manufacturing centers, make WPI's Metal Processing Institute the largest industry-university alliance in North America."

The marriage of WPI and industry, as Apelian calls it, began in 1985 with the aluminum casting research center. Powder metallurgy research began in 1992, followed by semisolid materials processing in 1994. Now, with the Center for Heat Treating Excellence, WPI's Metal Processing Institute boasts alliances with four sectors of the metal industry that have a combined annual revenue of more than $50 billion.

Apelian played a key role in the establishment of WPI's Metal Processing Institute. WPI research has led to increased efficiency and productivity in metal casting. Among other innovations, the university developed a device for detecting cracks in metals as well as sensors that identify impurities in liquid metal before it is cast.

In addition to support by its corporate members, the Metal Processing Institute is funded by federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, and by private foundations.