Smart manufacturing drives new standards
Being able to measure what you make is critical to successful manufacturing. And as manufacturing evolves, so too must the science of measurement.
To meet the needs of next-generation smart manufacturing processes, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has instituted a program that focuses on developing and deploying measurement standards and equipment that is self-aware, self-diagnosing and adaptive. The goal is to enable cost-effective and agile manufacturing of complex, technology-intensive, customized products.
NIST’s Smart Manufacturing Processes and Equipment Program (SMPE) targets three areas: additive manufacturing (AM), smart machining, and micro- and nano-manufacturing (MNM). Our objective is to develop and deploy crucial measurement-science advancements by the end of 2016.
MNM, a key part of the agile manufacturing portfolio, may impact a broad number of future manufacturing industries. Micro- and nano-manufacturers need design models, standards and in-situ measurements that can help increase yield and reduce material waste. Considering the global market for MNM products may reach $24 billion by 2020, according to a report by The Boston Consulting Group, solutions to these measurement science problems are urgently needed.
SMPE is closely aligned with our Engineering Laboratory’s mission to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness in technology-intensive manufacturing by anticipating and meeting its measurement-science and standards needs. SMPE is focused on baseline performance metrics, metrology and standards. The program also leverages NIST’s diverse interdisciplinary expertise, sustained commitment and neutrality, characteristics that are essential for the development of national and international standards.
Building self-aware machines and processes will require a performance assessment that includes robust modeling, simulation and control. Self-diagnostic capability requires pervasive real-time sensing and monitoring to provide the equipment and process controllers with up-to-date status reports on key process conditions.
There have been significant technological advances in machine controllers that can execute sophisticated control algorithms in instruments that enable performance measurements, and in sensors and imaging systems that enable more accurate process investigation. Furthermore, there is a groundswell of interest among manufacturers in improving the capabilities of AM processes and developing better process models, performance-evaluation methods and product-quality metrics.
What is the research plan?
AM is a key enabler for agile manufacturing, allowing manufacturers to respond quickly to changes in market demand with efficient, localized production of specialized products directly from CAD files. A downside, though, is that AM lacks the measurement-science infrastructure required to make it a viable alternative to traditional manufacturing. Therefore, SMPE, focusing only on metal-based AM, is investigating equipment, processes and material-measurement challenges.
With smart machining, SMPE focuses on developing and integrating measurement-science equipment and technologies appropriate for machining materials like titanium and other superalloys. They often possess critical characteristics such as resistance to corrosion and heat. The emphasis on these materials is because many of today’s high-tech products are made from them.
As for micro- and nano-manufacturing, SMPE focuses on the challenges of manufacturing miniaturized products and producing miniaturized features on larger products. Because the scale ranges from nanometers to tens of microns, research activities center on products such as nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), complex micro optics and micromechanical systems.
The cross-cutting challenge in MNM is the need for machine-based measurement methods that have adequately low uncertainties for deterministic process control. Due to size limitations and high bandwidth requirements, measurement must be performed with non-contact instruments.
NIST has identified six initiatives to be accomplished in the next 5 years in order to meet program objectives:
- Develop AM performance metrics and measurement methods.
- Develop metrics and assessment methods for AM materials.
- Extend existing machine tool performance standards to accommodate new measurement methods for 5-axis machines.
- Harmonize national (ASME) and international (ISO) standards for representing machine and process capabilities and models.
- Devise standard methods for measuring machine tools under loaded (machining) conditions.
- Develop standard methods for measuring non-contact, on-machine metrology systems.
If successful, NIST’s Smart Manufacturing Processes and Equipment Program will yield innovative measurement methods and new standards, as well as advanced modeling and simulation tools for cutting-edge processes and equipment. Widespread implementation of program outcomes will provide U.S. manufacturers with a significant technological edge and trigger rapid production of innovative, customized, high-value products.
This, in turn, will enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and lead to new and better high-technology manufacturing jobs. µ
Editor’s Note: for more information on SMPE, go to www.nist.gov/el/isd/sbm/smartmanu.cfm.