Dr. Joseph Beaman of UT Austin

A Conversation with Dr. Joseph Beaman of UT Austin

When you think of “manufacturing,” perhaps images of old American steel mills long since closed might come to mind. Or maybe you think of frenetic assembly lines across the sea, where the next generation of smartphones is being built.

But it’s possible that soon you’ll think of manufacturing much differently: smarter, more precise, much smaller, and once again in North America. Technologies like 3D printing will allow for the design and production of ever more niche products, and jumpstart a manufacturing renaissance in the country. And Texas could take the lead in getting us there.

To learn how Texas can make that happen, we recently spoke with Dr. Joseph Beaman, Professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Beaman was the first academic researcher in the field of Solid Freeform Fabrication — also known as 3D Printing, or ‘Additive Manufacturing’ — and his lab developed the process known as Selective Laser Sintering, which uses a high-powered laser to integrate materials into a three-dimensional form. The funding for these initial projects came from the state, which was looking to broaden its economic reach during an oil bust in the eighties.

Now, in the midst of a similar downturn in the oil and gas industry and a surge in advanced manufacturing technology, Beaman argues its time for the state to once again commit to the manufacturing sector. And he has an idea for how they could do it.

What Additive Manufacturing Is, and Where It Could Take Us

“Manufacturing is all about high volumes, right? High-volume, low-value manufacturing. If I’m going to manufacture something in the traditional way, I have to tool, and that’s really expensive. And the price drops as I hit more and more volume — that’s what economies of scale are all about.

But what additive manufacturing enables is essentially small-lot manufacturing — you can start to do high-value, low-volume manufacturing.

People are now using advanced manufacturing to make parts that go on parts, real products — they’re not just prototypes anymore. But the machine isn’t quite there to do it yet commercially, the cow’s not out of the barn yet. And I think that’s where the real monetary value is going to end up being, so I think it’s important for Texas to be in the mix on that.

With additive manufacturing, it allows me to build one thing just as cheaply as I could ten thousand of them. If you just want one of something I can give it to you, it’s just a software file. You don’t have to tool.

Now you’re not going to make razor blades that way, but things that are high-value, low-volume are where it makes sense. Things like personalized prosthetics. Let’s say there’s a below-the-knee amputee. You’d scan their residual limb and then 3D print a custom prosthetic. It’s no one else’s, it’s personalized. If you’re a runner, we’ll make you a custom shoe. And that kind of advanced manufacturing is a lot closer than you think.

It also completely disrupts the supply chain. In the future, you might not have an additive manufacturing machine at your house, but it might be somewhere in your city or region. And you’d send it a digital file and have it printed, then you’d go down there to pick it up. Or a drone will fly it to your house!”

On the Importance of State Funding for Advanced Manufacturing

“Other states are putting money into these advanced manufacturing research projects, matching money. And it’s making it hard for Texas to compete. You know, the Ohios, the Michigans — they’re all investing in it.

Manufacturing isn’t something that’s dying out, it’s something that we need. It turns out that something like 60–70 percent of all patents come from manufacturing. So the message there really is, even though it’s maybe only 30 percent of the economy, it’s where you do a lot of the invention.

There’s a lot that happens when you come up with a product, but there’s a lot more that happens when you actually make that product. 60–70 percent of all R&D spending is done in manufacturing. Per capita, it’s the biggest area for patents.

For instance, look at producing medical devices. In making medical devices, the big question is, ‘Could I make this faster?’ Well, additive manufacturing and 3D printing is one of the options, but there’s other things. We’d like to set up a system where you bring doctors and engineers together to come up with medical device solutions, and then actually get them built.

To actually do the initial testing, get to trial faster, and get the product out faster, and basically build a new medical device industry. I think there’s a real opportunity for that right now in Texas. And I think advanced manufacturing enables that, along with good medicine. We have some of the best medical schools here in Texas.”

The Model for Funding Advanced Manufacturing Research

“The model for Texas is the Fraunhofer model [a German research society]. The federal government, as well as the local regions, put up money, and then companies can get R&D done for something like 70 cents on the dollar. So they’re not getting it for nothing, but they’re getting it at a discount.

And it’s great for universities, too, because they’re co-located with universities, so students get to come over and work on these projects, and faculty get to come over as well.

So you have this really applied research, which creates a lot of engineering value. And it’s one of the reasons why the German economy is typically an export economy, and we’re not right now. I think the state of Texas itself could emulate that. I don’t think anyone in the U.S. is doing that right now.

It would be a great time for us to set up this model in Texas and really become the state for advanced manufacturing. We don’t want to do what everyone else does. We want to create the products of the future. Ten years from now, we want to be where manufacturing should be twenty years from now.”

Dr. Beaman will be presenting on advanced manufacturing at the TAMEST Texas Research Summit on Friday, November 13, 2015. The Texas Research Summit will highlight the outstanding research and innovation taking place in Texas, while giving researchers in Texas a better understanding of federal agency priorities. The objective is to make Texas research institutions more competitive in seeking federal funding for research, which would lead to increased job growth and stronger research programs at major academic and industrial institutions. 

The following post is part of a special blog series highlighting the importance of our O’Donnell Awards program and its impact on the program’s past recipients in medicine, engineering, science, and technology innovation, as well as the importance of scientific research to Texas. The 2014 O’Donnell Awards recipients have each agreed to contribute to the blog series.

The third post in this series was written by Dr. Thomas Truskett, recipient of the 2014 O’Donnell Award in Engineering. Dr. Truskett was recognized for fundamental contributions in three areas—self-assembly at the nanoscale, dynamics of confined liquids, and structural arrest of complex fluids—that are important for applications ranging from biomedical imaging to the delivery of therapeutic proteins.

View Dr. Truskett’s presentation at the TAMEST 2014 Annual Conference.
View Dr. Truskett’s portion of the 2014 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards tribute video.

The 2015 O’Donnell Awards recipients were announced in December through a press release and a video trailer on the TAMEST website.

Dr. Thomas Truskett, Recipient of the 2014 O’Donnell Award in Engineering

By Thomas Truskett, Ph.D.

Through discovery and innovation, scientists and engineers have a long history of addressing challenges critical to our health, prosperity, and security; i.e., to our quality of life. Since the latter is a priority for the citizens of most communities, a practical question arises. What can be done now (e.g., as a city, state, nation, etc.) to encourage and support a lasting culture of discovery and innovation? More specifically, what actions can be taken to help create and sustain the necessary human capital and infrastructure, as well as the resources and incentives, for these activities to thrive over the long term?

The answers are, of course, community specific and require understanding a complex landscape of political, strategic, and economic considerations. Private investors and companies have financial incentives to support development of promising and profitable technologies, and—all else equal—they favor investments in locations with a healthy business environment, a vibrant technological sector, and a highly skilled workforce, often in close proximity to prestigious tier-one research universities. The latter can be particularly helpful because the intersection of education and the world-class research characteristic of tier-one institutions not only helps to attract and retain top faculty and students, but it also produces a steady stream of graduates educated in a culture of discovery and innovation. More broadly, the tier-one university goals of educating future leaders and creating and disseminating new knowledge complement those of a robust technological sector.

Image of clustering in a simulated model dispersion of therapeutic proteins

An image of clustering in a simulated model dispersion of therapeutic proteins. Colors identify individual clusters. Image credit: Jon Bollinger and Thomas Truskett, UT Austin.

But that still leaves the question of what to do to cultivate an environment conducive to the long-term success of tier-one research universities? In addition to providing the necessary funding for world-class faculty and facilities (dollar amounts that get repaid many times over by the economic impact of these institutions), further investments need to be made to broadly support a culture of discovery and innovation. In Texas, one successful and forward-thinking example of such an initiative is The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST), founded a decade ago to recognize and bring together the top innovators in the state of Texas, including members of The National Academies as well as rising stars. Through its annual conferences and critical issues forums, as well as through the annual O’Donnell Awards, TAMEST has created something truly unique in Texas: a relevant innovation connection point for top educators, researchers, professionals, industry practitioners, media, and the public.

I experienced first-hand the benefits of TAMEST over the last year after being selected as the recipient of the 2014 O’Donnell Award for Engineering. It’s hard to describe how quickly giving an O’Donnell Awards Lecture at the annual conference in front of hundreds of Academy members and rising stars opens new doors for collaboration. This type of broad exposure is especially important in highly interdisciplinary fields like some of those in which I and my collaborators work, including computational material design and engineering liquid forms of biological therapeutics for at-home treatment of disease. Based on interactions and conversations associated with the O’Donnell Awards and the annual conference, I learned of fascinating complementary approaches, techniques, and ideas from other areas of science and engineering that advanced our research capabilities, and I have also established entirely new collaborations that are broadening the impact of our work. As the new year approaches, I look forward to the chance to return and participate in the annual conference and contribute to what has become a powerful and enlightening interaction forum for discovery and innovation in Texas.

Thomas Truskett, Ph.D.Dr. Thomas Truskett is Department Chair, Les and Sherri Stuewer Endowed Professor, and Bill L. Stanley Leadership Chair in Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).

The following post is part of a special blog series highlighting the importance of our O’Donnell Awards program and its impact on the program’s past recipients in medicine, engineering, science, and technology innovation, as well as the importance of scientific research to Texas. The 2014 O’Donnell Awards recipients have each agreed to contribute to the blog series.

The second post in this series was written by Dr. James Walker, recipient of the 2014 O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation. Dr. Walker was recognized for his pioneering work, development, and modeling in impact theory, penetration mechanics, material characterization and response under dynamic loading, and their application to resolving problems of international importance in personal protection and safety for defense and the space program.

View Dr. Walker’s presentation at the TAMEST 2014 Annual Conference.
View Dr. Walker’s portion of the 2014 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards tribute video.

The 2015 O’Donnell Awards recipients were announced in December through a press release and a video trailer on the TAMEST website.

Dr. James Walker, Recipient of the 2014 O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation

Decreasing the Analysis Time to Speed Up Development of Ground Combat Vehicles

By James Walker, Ph.D.

I was a principal investigator in the DARPA Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program, which is wrapping up this year (2014). AVM was a large research program with the ambitious goal of reducing the time from concept to production of a ground combat vehicle by a factor of five. There are many topics that come into play in the development and production of a new vehicle. Given our specific expertise in impact and blast, the Engineering Dynamics Department at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), located in San Antonio, Texas, was in charge of delivering the survivability analysis tools. Our effort included three divisions at SwRI and four subcontractors.

The aim was that the vehicle be “correct by construction.” To achieve the AVM program goals, accurate modeling of vehicle systems’ behaviors is required. We delivered survivability tools that greatly sped up the design and analysis process. The SwRI team’s role in this program was to provide survivability models for ballistic, blast, and corrosion protection, and human factors models.

Our work produced significant survivability tools, highlighted by five major innovations:

  • Innovation #1. Multi-fidelity analysis/varying levels of refinement in physics models, so that faster/lower fidelity computations could be performed in initial design space exploration, and more detailed analysis was performed during design refinement,
  • Innovation #2. Automated meshing and connecting of parts for complex vehicle structure, with particular success in our automatic welding and bolting tools,
  • Innovation #3. Uncertainty quantification and development of 95% bounding models thus indicating for minimal additional computational cost the robustness of the design,
  • Innovation #4. Sophisticated large deformation/material failure material model library and more accurate blast loads, since the results of the computations cannot be more accurate than the material characterizations and the applied loads, and
  • Innovation #5. Automating the whole survivability pipelines for blast and ballistics—essentially the designer can launch the entire analysis from CAD, making the survivability analysis tools easy for the designer to use.

In the DARPA AVM program, these tools went through an extensive testing beta test and a Gamma Test exercise by both commercial firms and engineering R&D laboratories. In that exercise, the SwRI team survivability tools received extensive praise, including

  1. “[Survivability tools] are much, much, much faster than the way we typically do things.”
  2. “Weeks of work done in an hour” [referring specifically to the automesher, autowelder, and shader]
  3. “Very impressed with the automation in blast and ballistics.”
  4. “There is nothing else like it [ballistic Shotline Viewer].”
Figure 1. Images from computations during DARPA AVM showing hull deformation

Figure 1. Images from SwRI team computations during DARPA AVM showing hull deformation due to blast and an automatically meshed vehicle hull with internal structural members.

As an example of automating an important behavior, consider the ability to handle welds and heat affected zones (HAZs). In the SwRI team software, this was completely automated, with the software looking for all finite elements that were in contact with a weld and then placing HAZ material properties into those elements. Figure 2 shows the bottom of a double V hull where, on the left, the heat affected zone is not included, while on the right, it is. There is a clear difference in the amount of damage and hull deflection. Accurately modeling the hull deformation requires these capabilities, which traditionally have been very labor intensive to include in a vehicle model prepared for analysis.

Figure 2. Blast computation on a conceptual hull

Figure 2. Images of a blast computation on a conceptual hull without a heat affected zone (HAZ) (top) and with an HAZ (bottom), showing the importance of including the HAZ. The HAZs and the welds in these examples were automatically produced by the SwRI team survivability tools.

An additional feature of the SwRI team survivability tools was the development of uncertainty-based bounds on the blast response. Given the variability in blast events, the uncertainty-based bounds are extremely helpful in identifying robust solutions. The bounds are obtained by assuming probability density functions (PDFs) for the main variables with variation or uncertainty in the blast problem: the charge density, energy, and geometric shape, the soil density and moisture content, and finally the depth of burial of the charge and the standoff with the bottom of the vehicle. With assumed distributions on these variables, the resulting probability density functions for the upward velocity, jump height, and a computed Dynamic Response Index (DRIz) spinal injury metric (with and without a blast seat with active mechanisms) are all computed. These PDFs allow the determination of a 95% bounding solution. A technique was then developed for rapidly determining the 95% bounding solution for similar blast cases, thus not requiring a recomputation of the PDF in each case, thus providing excellent nominal response values and bounds on the blast response (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. nominal-and-95-percent-upper-bound-for-each-plate-response-for-increasing-charge-mass-for-a-test-case

Figure 3. Nominal and 95% upper bound for each plate response (jump height, maximum vertical velocity, DRIz, and DRIz_seat) for increasing charge mass for a test case.

These examples are specific details that add up to analysis tools that address the larger goal of quicker turnaround for ground vehicles that can provide crew protection for a variety of threats. We are proud to support our troops and to work to provide them the best protection possible. Historically Texas provided ground vehicles to the U.S. military and hopefully such manufacturing will occur in Texas in the future. Nonprofit research establishments such as ours (SwRI), whose mission is “benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology,” will continue to promote efforts to provide protection to individuals in threatening environments of any kind, both natural and manmade. I’m pleased that The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas recognized the importance of our efforts to understand impact and blast events and to provide protection in such events. The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation in 2014 was great recognition of our work in protection systems over the years, from work on bullet proof vests to work on shielding the International Space Station. The recognition invigorated our entire research team and is much appreciated.

The Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards are unique awards that encourage, promote, and recognize Texas researchers by recognizing them by the Texas residents of the National Academies and by the heads of research universities and organizations. These awards are highly regarded by the leadership of the various institutions and demonstrate that resources invested in various programs have been good investments. I know that Southwest Research Institute leadership was very excited by our O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation, the first O’Donnell Award to be awarded to a San Antonio researcher. Further, O’Donnell Awards recognition brings the work of the recipients to a wider audience. Recognition of research demonstrates to various professional organizations and funding agencies that it is valued and has been reviewed by prestigious committees, and thus helps us quickly convey the importance and the relevance of the work.

Texas is a large state with lots of ongoing research, both basic and applied. Recognition of good research programs helps us advertise our work and attract funding and collaborators, both within and outside the state. Scientific and engineering research is an important component of the growing Texas economy. By recognizing innovation and cutting-edge technology advancements that occur in Texas laboratories, such as our work at Southwest Research Institute, it helps build connections and increase industrial outreach, which helps the economy and promotes more growth. Texas and the nation benefit by growth of high-technology positions and industry, and the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards help highlight science and technology success and promote more innovation and investment.

James Walker, Ph.D.Dr. James Walker is an institute scientist at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a nonprofit engineering research and development center based in San Antonio.

By Thomas J. Lange

We take them for granted, those products that help us start nearly every day. We shampoo and condition our hair, wash our skin, dry off with a fresh-smelling towel, shave, brush our teeth, fix our hair. Maybe we’ll also change the baby, feed the dog, start the dishwasher.

For more than seven generations, P&G has been inventing the products and building the brands aimed at making the morning’s start, and the day, just a little better. From the candle that lit the morning gloom in the 1837, to the floating bar of Ivory soap—‘99 44/100% Pure.’ To today, with brands like Pantene, Gillette, Crest, Covergirl, Hugo Boss, Pampers, Charmin, Cascade, Tide….

What most people don’t know is that behind each of those daily experiences, lays an amazing amount of Science, Engineering, and High Performance Computing.

P&G doesn’t usually talk about that because consumers really care more that Charmin is soft and strong, not really how it got that way. So, instead of an engineer in a white coat standing in front of a specialized machine making Charmin, we create ads with Mr. Whipple the friendly, quirky, grocer and today, cuddly cartoon bears.

From an Engineering perspective, this can leave the impression that everyday consumable goods are ‘low tech’—when the challenges our Scientists and Engineers face everyday are very much Rocket-Science hard. You see, our job is to break engineering ‘contradictions,’ and that is quite a challenge. For rocket science, it’s controlling an explosion—something that is inherently uncontrollable.

For us, we need to make Charmin that dissolves when wet, but is strong AND soft when dry. Bounty must be absorbent, but VERY strong when wet. Pampers need to be absorbent—but fit and comfort babies like cloth. Laundry treatments need to remove stains, but protect fabrics—including cloth dyes—and be concentrated yet still easy to use. Containers should never leak, but open easily. Containers, when dropped, should not break—but use a bare minimum of plastic that also recycles. Most importantly, all these products must be a good value for improving daily life, not just affordable for use once in a while.

Tide PODS® is truly a “one-wash wonder,” enabled by sophisticated computer simulation technology. The challenge of bringing together three different liquids into one pod, separated by a film that is both able to dissolve in cold water yet not dissolve from exposure to the contents is quite complicated. We had to do sophisticated computer simulations of how the pod could be mass produced without leaking—one splash droplet in the wrong place and we have a mess.

Diapers create another technological challenge. They need to fit like pants, but keep the baby and its surroundings dry and fit almost any size and shape. While there are thousands of baby shapes, no one can provide hundreds of sizes. Instead, we offer four to six options for the first two years of life. To get this right, we have teams working with computer models and simulations to identify what stretches where; how the waist band surrounds the tummy; and how leg holes will fit for both small and larger legs alike.

Finally, think about a shaving system that removes hair close to the skin, but protects your skin. The physics of hair removal, what pulls, what cuts, how sharp or slick the blade needs to be, at what angle the blade needs to be, all is precisely evaluated and determined by computer simulation.

Thomas Edison found 1000’s of things that did not work in his search for the materials that made the light bulb possible. We even have a name for that approach: ‘Edisonian investigation.’ For our products, we too are always ‘looking for a better way.’ High Performance Computing and the Engineering and Science Modeling & Simulation that it enables make possible hundreds of thousands of iterations on the computer in less time and with less cost. That allows us to continue our brands’ promise that our great, great, great grandchildren will start their day a little better than we did today.

The Procter & Gamble Company supports a number of programs and projects aimed at putting high-tech Modeling & Simulation tools in the hands of small businesses to help accelerate innovation and U.S. manufacturing quality.

Thomas J. Lange Thomas J. Lange, Director, R&D, Modeling & Simulation at Procter & Gamble Company was a keynote speaker at The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas’ (TAMEST’s) Annual Conference, January 16-17, 2014. The conference addressed the computational revolution in medicine, engineering, and science. Click to view a video of Lange’s keynote address.

By Dr. Tinsley Oden and Dr. Omar Ghattas

A simple definition of science is this: the activity concerned with the systematic acquisition of knowledge. The English word is derived from scientia, which is Latin for “knowledge.” According to the Cambridge Dictionary, science is “the enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.” It is designed to reduce or eliminate ignorance by acquiring and understanding information and involves the mental comprehension of perceived truth or fact through cognition.

The question of how knowledge is acquired has been a subject of debate among philosophers of science for almost 3,000 years and, as far as is known, began in writings of Plato and Socrates. After millennia of debate by the greatest minds of human history, two avenues to scientific knowledge emerged: 1) observations, experimental measurements, information gained by the human senses, guided by instruments; and 2) theory, inductive hypotheses often framed in mathematical language. Observation and theory are thus, the two classical pillars of science.

Understanding HIV

ICES researchers have simulated the behavior of the HIV RT protein to help design therapeutic drugs. Protein motions are displayed as multiple light blue ribbons. The green and dark blue spheres represent the DNA which the protein HIV RT synthesizes.

Is there a third pillar? Is there a new avenue to gain scientific knowledge and guide engineering design? The answer, in our minds, and in the minds of most contemporary scientists and engineers, is very clearly “Yes.” It is the new discipline of computational science: “the use of computational algorithms to translate mathematical models that represent how the physical universe behaves into computer models that predict the future and reconstruct the past, and that are used to simulate a broad spectrum of engineered products, processes, and systems.”

Computational science represents the single most important scientific advance in human history. It has transformed forever the way scientific discoveries are made and how engineering design and manufacturing are carried out. It lies at the intersection of mathematics, computer science, and the core disciplines of science and engineering.

What can computational science and engineering (CS&E) do that classical science cannot? It can look into the past with so-called inverse analysis to determine which past events caused observed phenomena. It can explore the effects of thousands of scenarios for or in lieu of actual experiments. It can be used to study events beyond the reach of contemporary experimental science. It can optimize procedures for the design of products and systems. It can even explore the consequences of a breakdown in models and theories.

Mapping the Human Brain

Researchers in the Center for Computational Visualization, directed by Chandrajit Bajaj, have been automating construction of nanoscopic resolution models of the human brain and its activity. This picture shows an active chemical synapse between a (green) neuron axonal segment and a (yellow) dendritic spine head, surrounded by spherical neurotransmitters (blue, red, white ) at different stages of ion-channel activation.

Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a contemporary engineered product, process, or system that has not been designed by the modern tools of computational science. From power systems, chemical processes, civil infrastructure, automotive and aerospace vehicles, and advanced materials, to electronic devices, communication systems, medical devices and procedures, pharmaceutical drugs, manufacturing systems, and operational logistics, and many more—sophisticated models running on high performance computers are used as surrogates of reality to facilitate virtual design, control, planning, manufacture, and testing, resulting in faster, cheaper, and better products and processes.

Moreover, the prediction of the behavior of natural systems using computer models has led to vastly improved understanding of these systems, which range from severe weather, climate change, energy resources, and earthquakes, to protein folding, genomics, chemical processes, and virus spread, to supernovae and evolution of galaxies, to name but a few. Indeed, the traditional core disciplines of science and engineering must now be reviewed and reconstituted because what had once been out of reach by traditional science is now well within reach due to the advent of powerful new tools and approaches afforded by computational science.

This past year marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), the leading research institute in the world in CS&E with over 250 faculty, research scientists, and graduate students, located here in Austin, Texas. Moreover, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) in 2013 deployed Stampede, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. These two resources, and others, have placed The University of Texas at Austin at the forefront of research and education in computational science and engineering. The impacts on the region and the state are just beginning to be felt, and will accelerate rapidly in the coming years.

Drs. J. Tinsley Oden and Omar GhattasDr. Tinsley Oden (director of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Science (ICES), associate vice president of Research and professor at UT Austin) and Dr. Omar Ghattas (director of the Center for Computational Geosciences at ICES and professor at UT Austin) will both be speakers at The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas’ (TAMEST’s) Annual Conference January 16-17, 2014. The conference will address the computational revolution in medicine, engineering, and science.