The Knoxville-based Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, better known as IACMI, is concluding its 2020 Winter Meeting today in Dayton, OH. Ahead of the event, the organization released a video annual report along a narrative version of the highlights. The 2019 highpoints include:
- IACMI led a project with Volkswagen, to create a compression molded composite liftgate for the Volkswagen Atlas (see our earlier article about the recently announced VW Innovation Hub that included a photo of the liftgate). The University of Tennessee (UT) played a lead role in the research and development that resulted in reduced weight and cost for the lightweight body panel. The 35 percent reduction in weight from a comparable steel part and demonstration of a composite solution that provides the aesthetic, strength, and performance characteristics demanded by industry was a marked achievement that has earned significant attention for the project partners.
- IACMI was awarded a $5 million grant under the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP) to replicate the successful Davis Tech composites training program model at other locations across the U.S. This grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, diversifies funding for the Institute and aims to build capacity at the technician level. UT and Vanderbilt University are both partnering with the Institute and other national partners to implement the curriculum.
- International recognition was garnered at a CAMX event when a collaboration led by IACMI was named as an “ACE Award Winner for Most Creative Application.” The project was conducted in partnership with Highland Composites, UT Knoxville, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and several other organizations as well as more than 25 students. The Carbon Fiber Braided Arched Beams project that won is currently installed at the Friendship Bell Park in Oak Ridge. At the same CAMX event in 2019, the AR/VR modules for composites manufacturing, STEM, workforce and training earned recognition as a finalist for the “ACE for the Equipment and Tooling Innovation” award. Uday Vaidya, IACMI’s Chief Technology Officer and UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair, led both projects and continues to serve as an internationally-recognized thought leader in this industry.
- Recycling and circular economy projects are increasing in importance and scope. ORNL and UT have led several key IACMI projects in recycling and bio-based composites. One project is focused on developing a bamboo bio-composite truck and trailer decking that has performance, energy, and economic benefits compared to traditional wood decking. Another project is helping to close the loop on automotive carbon fiber manufacturing scrap to incorporate recycled carbon fiber into thermoplastics for new automotive parts to enable vehicle weight reductions. Carbon Fiber Recycling, Inc., the local composites recycling division of Modern Recovery Systems, is expanding operations from scrap handling to include on-site processing. Significant impact is being realized in this area and is expected to continue in the future.
- IACMI Members based in Tennessee are advancing their respective businesses. In 2019, Techmer PM opened its multi-million-dollar production line to support demands of the large-scale 3D printing industry. Local Motors is now producing its autonomous shuttle, Olli, at the facility in Hardin Valley. 4M and Montefibre announced a partnership for production of low-cost carbon fiber in East Tennessee. IACMI, Knoxville Chamber, Innovation Valley, and key industry partners conduct outreach and convene meetings across the state to create supply chain connectivity through the “Composites Coalition.” To date, more than 50 private industry companies have participated in these events.
- IACMI has established excellent community membership and facilities networks, proven infrastructure for managing collaborative projects, impactful experiential workforce development programs, and a track record of delivering successful outcomes with its many project partners.