DOE Tooling Project Expected to Transform Lightweighting Material Production through AI

Posted: August 25, 2022

ISE’s role in a new Department of Energy project to produce low-cost and prototyping technologies could revolutionize the automotive industry and have implications for aerospace manufacturing and beyond, all while reducing the carbon footprint. 

The ISE Department is working with Clemson University, Honda Development and Manufacturing of America, Additive Engineering Solutions, Altair Engineering and MSC Corp. on the $4 million grant program to fabricate low-cost, agile tools for manufacturing lightweight automotive components. 

It’s all part of a nearly $60 million total project awarded by the DOE to reduce industrial emissions and manufacture clean energy technologies. 

Farhang Pourboghrat hi res
ISE Chair Farhang Pourboghrat

ISE Chair Farhang Pourboghrat, noted for his work in computational modeling, was asked to bring his expertise to the venture, which also benefited from the long-time partnership Ohio State has with Honda R&D. 

According to the project summary, “The development of lightweight structural components such as sheet metal parts invariably requires prototypes for verification. Such prototype components must represent the form and function of the ultimate mass production parts which requires material and manufacturing process to be similar, leading to very high tooling cost and long turnover time considering multiple protypes are often needed before a design can be finalized for mass production.” 

The project will utilize artificial intelligence to develop composite prototype structures, which is expected to speed up the prototyping and testing phases. The idea is that manufacturing the materials, which are recyclable, will be at a lower cost and there will be additional data to add to the data set. 

“The process is fine,” Pourboghrat says, “but it takes time. You can expedite it with AI.” 

He says he is excited about the prospects of bringing the design of composite prototype structures to Ohio State. “It’s not in the wheelhouse of Ohio State,” he says. “We’re really, really strong when it comes to metals,” but research on composite materials is an area that he had hoped to bring to the Department and one of the reasons he came to Ohio State. 

Manufacturing these types of lightweight materials is critical for the industry and the environment and could help avoid supply-chain issues through local sourcing of materials. “It’s absolutely crucial that we are able to strengthen the economy of the U.S. by manufacturing critical parts for everything and not be dependent on other countries,” Pourboghrat says. 

Metrics will be based on reduced energy consumption and carbon intensity, recyclability, decreased operating costs, quality and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, and reduced lead time. The resulting product should have unlimited uses, Pourboghrat says, from automotive to aerospace and infrastructure. 

He says there will be roles for graduate and undergraduate students to work on the project, which often results in career opportunities. “I think that it is a ticket to get a really good job,” Pourboghrat says, citing recent examples where students were immediately hired after participating in work for Tesla and SpaceX. 

The project is one of two recent ISE awards from DOE for similar types of projects. 


Story by Nancy Richison

Category: Faculty