Suresh Babu, Uday Vaidya, and Tony Schmitz.

Protecting the Future

College a Key Player in Army’s $50 Million Advanced Manufacturing Project

This summer, UT, the University of Kentucky, and the US Army announced a five-year, $50 million advanced manufacturing project aimed at developing the next generation of military equipment, with the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering set to play a major role.

By David Goddard. Photography by Shawn Poynter.

The project will focus on improving materials and manufacturing methods that could significantly advance capabilities of the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command—DEVCOM—Army Research Laboratory, including developing the next generation of vehicles, increasing the distance of its long-range arsenal, and exploring designs for vertical lift vehicles of the future.

“Being able to provide research and open new avenues of discovery in ways that impact our national security is a challenge that we take with great pride and honor,” said Matthew Mench, dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of the Tickle College of Engineering. “Having the ability to create a team that draws upon expertise from across our university is a testament to the work we’re already doing and a solid foundation for what we hope to accomplish.”

The project will not only enhance military capabilities but also contribute to civilian applications and workforce training that will spur economic development in key industries in the region, including aerospace, automotive manufacturing, and energy production.

UT will be working on three areas of focus: hybrid manufacturing methods that combine additive techniques and machining, measurements using advanced metrology approaches, and new materials processing techniques for metals, polymers, ceramics, and composites.

UT and UK will each develop and test metallic hybrid materials, finding the optimal blend of additive and subtractive manufacturing and flash processing of steels with unique properties like enhanced ballistic resistance.

The Army supports collaboration across academia, industry leaders, and the area’s workforce to make advancements.

“The exciting thing about this program is that it is combining fundamental research from universities with the cutting-edge R&D of small companies along with knowledge and expertise from defense contractors and the leadership of Army scientists,” said Bryan Cheeseman, one of the Army’s co-leads on the project. “The teamwork and collaboration are key to accelerating innovation and rapidly transitioning the latest technology to the Warfighter.”

“This is a momentous collaborative research effort among two flagship universities, regional industries, and the Army Research Laboratory,” said Jian Yu, the ARL cooperative agreement manager for UT. “Unlike other governmental grants, this program offers a fast track for new technology development and transition to the Army applications, executing the Army Future Command’s modernization vision. At the same time, the program also develops the next generation of civil workforce for advanced manufacturing in the Tennessee Valley region.”

In short, the project will help secure both the nation and the economic future of its citizens.

Future Projects

Among the projects that the team will be producing, researching, or developing:

  • New metallic hybrid materials that will be stronger, lighter, and more durable
  • Advanced manufacturing methods to help improve production and reduce costs
  • Flash processing of steel with novel properties
  • The machining and surface finishing of materials
  • More durable high-performing metals for unmanned aerial vehicles
  • New materials for hypersonics

Research Team

The project will be led by Senior Director for Space and Defense Programs Bruce LaMattina and includes the following team members:

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