SME’s North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC), held jointly with ASME’s International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC), is the preeminent international forum for applied research and industrial applications in manufacturing. MSEC/NAMRC 46 was held at Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) June 18-22; Satish Bukkapatnam, PhD, Arun Srinivasa, PhD, and I were the co-chairs of this year’s conference. As the organizers, we were honored that this marked the first time NAMRC was hosted in the state of Texas. We were also pleased that the conference brought together more than 700 attendees from 28 countries, with participants from academia, industry, and government.
This year, more than 400 papers and 60 posters were accepted for presentation during the co-located conference. The conference also featured several special events, including an NSF Proposal Writing Workshop; Student Manufacturing Design Competition; Early Career Forum; the Reusable Abstractions of Manufacturing Processes Competition and Workshop; a “Federal Agencies’ Perspectives on Advanced Manufacturing” session; and “What’s New at NSF–Update from NSF Program Directors” panel. NAMRC 46 also featured the second Blue Sky Competition, focused on new, visionary ideas to solve long-term challenges for manufacturing. The winner of the competition receives the NAMRI/SME Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award.
Over the past two years, more than 80 abstracts were entered for the Blue Sky Competition from which 16 finalists were selected, including seven high-quality presentations at this year’s event. We believe the Blue Sky presentations are critical for stimulating new ideas in the manufacturing community that could catalyze support for a vision of future manufacturing research and education. We are particularly glad that a team of our Texas A&M colleagues, led by Alaa Elwany, PhD, won the competition for their vision of “3D Printing for Civil Infrastructure Construction.”
Taken together, recent advances in manufacturing technologies, cyberinfrastructure, data science, and artificial intelligence offer an exciting, mostly untapped opportunity for manufacturing innovation. The keynote speakers at the 2018 MSEC/NAMRC 46 conference brought out the various facets of the emerging excitement and challenges.
Ahmed Mahmoud, chief information officer for General Motors IT (Austin, TX), spoke about the sheer amount of data generated on manufacturing plant floors and the imperative of a new generation of software that will transform data in ways that diverse applications can access it without having to convert to its native forms. He also stressed the importance of determining what granularity of data is adequate for a given application.
2014 SME President Mike Molnar, FSME, CMfgE, PE, the founding director of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST; Gaithersburg, MD), delivered the second keynote. His talk focused on the technical and business barriers to translating an innovative new material, process or technology for robust production use and how addressing the same is essential to enhancing US leadership in advanced manufacturing. He also provided an overview of the Manufacturing USA program, which includes 14 innovation institutes.
The third speaker was Ajay Malshe, PhD, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a professor at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR). He discussed the possibilities for extreme levels of customization and adaptation in the way products are created and delivered to fulfill global demand by taking inspiration from Mother Nature.
The fourth keynote was delivered by Takeshi Ebisu, president and CEO of Goodman Global Group Inc.
(Houston). His talk addressed the need for the industry to seize upon current technological advancements to transform its enterprise as part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). He also discussed the enormous potential of enriching the decision-making process based on harnessing information from IIoT systems through the use of advanced data science and artificial intelligence technologies.
The 2018 MSEC/NAMRC 46 conference has contributed immensely to enhancing the visibility of the manufacturing initiative at Texas A&M University nationally and internationally. More than 80 Texas A&M faculty members and students took part in the conference. Our faculty and students were pleased to showcase our research projects and laboratories. While considerable effort was needed to organize a conference of this magnitude, our enthusiastic colleagues and staff made the hosting job a wonderful experience. We hope, as the host, we provided a welcoming and productive conference environment and look forward to the continued success of future NAMRC/MSEC conferences.
Join us next year for NAMRC 47, which will be hosted by Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering, June 10-14, 2019, at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA. Paper submissions are now being accepted (through Nov. 5 for academia and Nov. 30 for industry); additional conference information can be found at sme.org/namrc47.