WPI's Metal Processing Institute is a Core Facility for a National Manufacturing Innovation Institute

Announced by the White House today, the $148 million American Lightweight and Modern Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute will play a key role in helping revitalize the nation's manufacturing capabilities and competitiveness.
February 25, 2014

Researchers in the Aluminum Casting Research Center, part of WPI’s Metal Processing Institute

The Metal Processing Institute (MPI) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is one of four core academic facilities for the American Lightweight and Modern Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (LM3I), a new $148 million initiative announced by the White House today that is aimed at helping to revitalize the nation's manufacturing capabilities and competitiveness.

MPI is one of the largest industry-university consortiums in North America with more than 80 industry members. It is dedicated to advancing the state of the art in metal processing and materials recovery and recycling. It will contribute its unique expertise in lightweight metal casting and heat treatment reflected in the missions of two of its industry-funded research centers: the Advanced Casting Research Center (ACRC) and the Center for Heat Treating Excellence (CHTE).

"The pioneering work of WPI researchers in materials science and engineering, and metals processing in particular, is recognized internationally," said David Cyganski, dean of engineering at WPI. "I am delighted that our research expertise and leadership can contribute to this important national effort and help make the United States, once again, a center for innovation in manufacturing."

LM3I is expected to create more than 10,000 new metals manufacturing jobs, spur innovative research and development on lightweight metals processing and manufacturing, and help train hundreds of engineering professionals and skilled trade workers in the most advanced manufacturing shills. It will be headquartered in the greater Detroit metro area and led by EWI, a nonprofit manufacturing innovation company in Columbus, Ohio, along with the University of Michigan and the University of Ohio.

Lightweight metals include aluminum, titanium, magnesium, and high-strength steels. Substituting these metals for heavier steels in cars, trucks, aircraft, and ships can result in significant fuel savings (it has been estimated that each 10 percent reduction in vehicle weight produces a 5 to 7 percent increase in fuel economy).

WPI has developed an international reputation as a leading center for innovation in metals and materials processing and manufacturing through pioneering research on new alloys, novel materials characterization techniques, and innovative materials processes conducted by MPI and through WPI's Materials Science and Engineering Program, and funded by major awards from the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and other federal agencies.

Diran Apelian, left, founder and director of the Metal Processing Institute

"From its inception, the Metal Processing Institute has been dedicated to solving problems identified by industry and developing new technology, new materials, and new techniques that can be readily translated to the field to help companies be more competitive," said Diran Apelian, Alcoa-Howmet Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WPI and director of the MPI. "We see our role in LM3I very much as an extension of that mission and an opportunity to continue to help revitalize and renew America's manufacturing might."

LM3I is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, an initiative launched by President Barack Obama in 2013 to bolster the innovation, performance, competitiveness, and job-creating power of American manufacturing. Driven by a consortium composed of corporations, universities, and government agencies and laboratories, it will be funded by $70 million from the Department of Defense (DOD) that will be matched by $78 million from the consortium partners. The consortium was selected in a highly competitive process managed by the DOD that saw multiple teams from across the country vying for a role in new high-impact national research and development program.

The Institute will have its headquarters in Canton, Mich., a township located between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Its 60 members include university/research partners, workforce development partners, small and medium-sized industry partners, and 35 large companies, including some of the world's largest aluminum, titanium, and high-strength steel processors.

Four academic sites have been designed core facilities for the consortium. Along with WPI's Metal Processing Institute in Worcester, they are Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan will provide materials processing and characterization facilities; Columbus, Ohio, where EWI and Ohio State University will make available advanced manufacturing equipment and facilities; and Golden, Colo., where the Colorado School of Mines has unique facilities for technology development in thermo-mechanical and other lightweight materials processing.

In addition, seven "process pillars" have been designated as critical to the success of the initiative. Diran Apelian is the lead for the casting pillar; Makhlouf Makhlouf, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Advanced Casting Research Center, and Richard Sisson, George F. Fuller Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Heat Treating Excellence, will be participating in this initiative.

Apelian, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an internationally recognized pioneer in metals research, founded MPI in 1996. His contributions to the metals community as a researcher and visionary leader have been recognized with a long list of awards and honors, including the 2010 National Materials Advancement Award for outstanding capabilities in advancing the multidisciplinary field of materials science and engineering and the 2012 Robert Earll McConnell Award from American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers for advancing the science and technology of materials science and engineering and advocating a broader role of MSE in solving global human challenges. A former president of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) and one of only 100 living TMS Fellows,Apelian was one of six Anniversary Laureates at the TMS 50th anniversary annual meeting.