ISE teams up with NSF, industry, universities to propose Center for Industrial Metal Forming

Posted: October 12, 2022

Ohio State’s ISE Department has an opportunity to leverage the strengths and resources of the National Science Foundation (NSF) along with partner industries and universities to collaborate on a new Center for Industrial Metal Forming (CIMF). 

NSF’s Industry University Cooperative Research Center program, or IUCRC, has provided an initial $80,000 planning grant for the CIMF team to develop a proposal for the center. Based on the plan, the Foundation will then determine the center’s viability before considering whether to provide additional funding for its establishment. “The way this center is meant to work is that industry members will be providing the research funds and also selecting the collaborative, pre-competitive projects to be supported,” while NSF will be covering the administrative expenses to run the center,” says Associate Professor Yannis Korkolis. “Ohio State will also be contributing, by providing a greatly reduced overhead on the industry funds. In these ways, most of the industry funds will be directed to the research itself.” 

Professor Yannis Korkolis

Korkolis, who is leading this effort, says one of the goals of CIMF will be to train the next generation of metal forming experts, by engaging Ohio State’s graduate and undergraduate students in the industry-supported research at the center. Industry would benefit by becoming members of the center and obtaining access to the resources and expertise of the universities, as well as to talent.  

ISE Department Chair Farhang Pourboghrat says the partnership is critical to putting fundamental knowledge into use by industry. He says, “What industry needs for profit and what industry wants through applied science, there is a chasm between the two.” 

For the businesses, Korkolis says, “To make an intelligent investment, knowledge of the state-of-art is needed.” 

Korkolis says one of the key steps is talking with industry is to determine their needs and thus, “to then craft value propositions that will resonate with them.” 

“For example, in these interviews, we’re hearing left and right about access to trained personnel,” he says. “The member companies would be able to work with students for two to three years before they could decide if they want to hire them.” 

Ohio State is collaborating with Oakland University, North Carolina State University and the University of New Hampshire with each bringing their own areas of expertise. The participating industries are in the automotive, defense and aerospace, biomedical, and material producer sectors. The list of projects proposed are computational and material enhancements in forming, innovative forming processes, and forming equipment and die innovation. 

Korkolis says the planning effort is a 12-month process to design a center and then submit a proposal to NSF. Success will largely be determined by whether there is enough industry buy-in to create this center. “It will be critical for the success of this proposal for the industry to commit to participate financially,” he says. “They will decide the projects we will work on, but they will also provide the support for them.” 

While there will be no separate physical facility, the center’s research will be performed on campus, including Baker Systems and the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, as well as at the partner universities. Ohio State will be the lead institution, with center administration staff and a business development manager located onsite. 

According to NSF, the IUCRC program benefits the private sector by providing access to talent and research results, including intellectual property, and leveraging research dollars by pooling resources together. Funding, industry insight and student placement helps the universities, while the government sees benefits in the leveraged research dollars, the network that is created and the training opportunities available to the students. 

Currently, there are no NSF-funded centers focused on metal forming science and technology anywhere in the US. “One of the downsides of that is that very few of the people who graduate from universities and join the manufacturing industry have knowledge of metal forming processes,” Korkolis says, “despite these being indispensable for producing everything from consumer goods and beverage cans to cars and airplanes.” 


Story by Nancy Richison

Category: Faculty