Researchers seek to create new ‘making’ discipline

'Informatics of making’ aims to unite computing, materials and manufacturing advances.
By Modern Materials Handling Staff
September 04, 2013 - MMH Editorial

Researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison and Drexel University are pursuing the building blocks for a rich set of computational tools that would allow manufacturers to account for the material complexity of a sophisticated product within a single computer model.

Vadim Shapiro of the University of Wisconsin and William Regli of Drexel University plan to unite materials science, computing and manufacturing with an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. In the process, they want to establish a new discipline they call the “informatics of making.”

“We’re not just talking about computing systems, but specifically computing systems in support of material activities,” says Shapiro, the Bernard and Frances M. Weideman professor of mechanical engineering and computer sciences at UW-Madison. “Moving forward requires computational models that know about geometry, materials and physics.”

Shapiro will contribute to this research his expertise in geometry, mathematical models and computer models. Regli will draw on his interdisciplinary experience with information systems, knowledge representation and archives.

Regli, a professor of engineering and computer science at Drexel, has long worked at the intersection of computer science and manufacturing. He says that as the 3D printing world begins to buzz about such huge possibilities as printing an entire house, it’s becoming clear that computational design tools need to catch up to advances in materials science.

“If I want to design an object that has variable material properties, on a 3D printer, the tools just don’t exist,” says Regli, associate dean of research at Drexel’s iSchool, College of Information Science & Technology. “What you’re making is more than a shape; it’s how the shape responds to its physical environment — for example, how it acts under certain forces.”

Currently, when 3D printer users exchange data on an object they’re trying to print, they use what Shapiro refers to as a “dumb” file, one that simply transmits an approximate shape of an object. Shapiro believes the next step is to create models and languages that also include information about the materials, physics and design intent.

“It’s almost at the point where you can interchangeably think of materials as bits of information,” Shapiro says.

Regli, whose primary background is in computer science, says the main challenge of the research is to find the right abstractions with which to unite principles of design, materials and computing. “We have to figure out how to relate the representations for material and behavior from an engineering standpoint to the computational representations,” he says.

If the researchers can accomplish that, it will establish a framework in which manufacturers and engineers can build powerful new tools that harness the potential of three fast-rising scientific disciplines.

The scope of the grant is to create an abstract, foundational link between computers and materials and their behaviors, but it aims for profound impact.

“If successful,” Shapiro and Regli wrote in their grant proposal, “this research should also lead to systematic re-examination of how design and manufacturing are taught and practiced at all levels.”



Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

While it feels somewhat hard to fathom, the stage is set for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Carload volumes were up 1.4 percent at 300,388, and intermodal volume for the week ending September 13 was up 5 percent at 279,052 trailers and containers.

Company says the Cloud offering allows customers to respond more quickly to new business opportunities, without significant upfront cost and implementation times.

As e-commerce continues to take a bigger piece of the holiday package delivery pie, it stands to reason that companies need to be proactive and prepared in order to deliver premium service during the busiest time of year, which is rapidly approaching. And that is exactly what transportation giants UPS and FedEx are doing this year. How are they doing it exactly? The primary step they are taking is to up their numbers of seasonal staffers.

A recent hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation suggests that the U.S. Merchant Marine industry may be poised for a major comeback.

Article Topics

News · Technology · Education · Manufacturing · All topics

About the Author

Josh Bond, Associate Editor
Josh Bond is an associate editor to Modern. Josh was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and contributing editor, has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce. Contact Josh Bond

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.