Ohio State engineers awarded funding to advance robotic manufacturing

Posted: September 30, 2022

The Ohio State University College of Engineering received nearly $500,000 from the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute to design and deploy an artificial intelligent robotic system capable of producing low-volume complex metallic components quickly and cost-effectively.

A robot positions a metal billet within an open-die forging press during a sequence of incremental forming steps. The system learns the sequence of forming steps through computer simulation and machine learning, and the robot performs the sequence to produce complex geometries using simple tooling without user interaction.

The project is one of eight selected for institute funding for its potential to meet critical U.S. manufacturing needs, empower workers and address key Department of Defense manufacturing-focused modernization priorities.

Metallic components are common in the automotive industry, high-end auto sports, heavy-duty factory machinery, powerplants and military equipment. If critical components fail or are damaged, it can shut down a factory or ground a military aircraft—costing millions of dollars per day in lost production and hindering defense missions. Replacements for these specialized parts—especially for aging systems—can be expensive, time-consuming and vary in quality.

Led by Integrated Systems Engineering Associate Professor Michael Groeber, the multidisciplinary team will develop hybrid autonomous manufacturing technology, controlled by AI, that uses multiple tools and processes to fabricate high-quality components whenever and wherever needed.  

“We aim to demonstrate an autonomous manufacturing cell focused on thermomechanical processing—specifically iterative open-die forming with heat treatment,” Groeber said. “The system will iteratively pass parts to specialized equipment that take measurements, heat material, and perform shaping operations using varied tooling—all without human intervention or explicit CNC programming.”

The Ohio State team includes co-principal investigator Steve Niezgoda, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and Walter Hansen, a mechanical and systems engineer at the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME). Yaskawa and CapSen Robotics are also collaborators on the project.

Their proposed system will initially demonstrate forming of an aluminum alloy for aerospace-relevant components. While this represents critical components of interest to the Department of Defense, the technology will also be applicable to many other industries.

“Metallic components with similar features are frequently used in everything from factories to auto sports,” Groeber said. “Additionally, the ability to custom shape metallic components with limited human interaction, while ensuring mechanical performance goals, is a critical but yet unrealized step towards personalized medical implants for various reconstructive procedures.”

CDME’s Artificially Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (AIMS) Laboratory, led by Groeber and Hansen, will be a key project resource. Launched in 2019, the lab is a test site for industry and university partners to study and develop manufacturing systems that work with and are controlled by different types of artificial intelligence.

Funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the ARM Institute leverages a unique, robust, and diverse ecosystem of 330+ consortium members and partners across industry, academia, and government to make robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence more accessible to U.S. manufacturers, train and empower the manufacturing workforce, strengthen our economy and global competitiveness, and elevate national security and resilience.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, clevenger.87@osu.edu

Category: Faculty