Breakthroughs in composite manufacturing and 3-D printing are opening up amazing possibilities, not just in the way we make things in the 21st century, but in the potential to design entirely new products that were difficult even to conceive only a few short years ago. Innovative materials and processes are making it a reality to engineer product-specific compounds that allow new ideas to take shape from the inside out. Indiana is moving past the structural limitations of bending, welding, machining and fastening, and is now layering composites in the finished shape and structure of anything the state wants to build.
It’s a new science and a new reality that is touching every industry on the planet, and it’s happening right here in Indiana. Aerospace, motorsports, orthopedics, computer science, energy and education are all being catapulted into a new realm of possibilities where products are stronger, lighter and more affordable than any time in our history. Most importantly, it’s not just happening in the science lab, it’s happening in our daily lives.
Composites like carbon fiber are the new standard in things like golf clubs, tennis rackets, cycling helmets and even the soles of our running shoes. We’ve seen these materials elevate the performance and efficiency of airplanes, spacecraft and race cars for years now, but carbon fiber is also finding its way into our personal cars with vehicles like the BMW i3 and M3 already in the consumer marketplace. These materials are beginning to reach a price point that will make them affordable in design applications where heavier metal alloys have been the traditional standard, which should be a game-changer for the automotive industry.
Putting together the funding and research partnerships to keep pace with these technologies and bring them affordably to heavier industries like the automotive and transportation marketplace is one of our greatest challenges as we begin to leverage the strength and efficiency advantages of products like carbon fiber. Those partnerships are already underway in Indiana.
The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) is directing a $259-million national initiative that will lead a five-year, multistate research and development effort that includes universities, economic development agencies, corporations and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Purdue University will house one of five research centers to advance the design and simulation of new production processes and 3-D composite printing. The center is expected to utilize engineers and graduate students working in approximately 30,000 to 60,000 square feet of lab space in Purdue Research Park. The IACMI is helping to bring about $40 million to Indiana, with $15 million coming from the Department of Energy, $15 million from the Indiana Economic Development Commission and $10 million from private industry.
Most importantly, this research isn’t happening in separate silos that will only benefit specific industries or regions of the country. The results are all being shared to deliver these breakthroughs to the marketplace. New materials developed for one industry such as motorsports will have crossover applications in other industries like aerospace, health, computer science and education. We’re transitioning to a culture of free-market discoveries that will be top drivers for new jobs, economic growth and new frontiers of exploration and discovery.
Ultimately these innovations will not only improve the quality of our lives, but they will bring about new economic efficiencies, raise the standards for sustainability, lower energy costs and open the doors to a future where almost anything imaginable is possible. It will free us from the limitations of a future held together with nuts and bolts, and it will open our imaginations to the new shape of things to come. And someday soon, these new materials will help deliver a cleaner, safer, more comfortable tomorrow in the Hoosier State. Composites are taking us closer to that future every day.
By combining the state’s advanced manufacturing expertise with world- class universities and research facilities, Indiana is helping lead the charge to create innovative new products and processes that will improve our economy and our quality of life in the 21st century. By forging new partnerships between the public and private sectors, like the one currently underway with IACMI, Indiana is also helping leverage the funding mechanisms that will bring these innovations to the marketplace on an accelerated timeline. It’s a new way of thinking and making things that will grow the economy and create new opportunities for the next generation of Hoosiers, and it’s all happening right now in the state of Indiana.