MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity

The Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity (LMP) is an interdepartmental laboratory in the School of Engineering directed by Prof Timothy G. Gutowski (Mechanical Engineering ). It was established in 1977 to conduct engineering research in manufacturing and to develop the fundamentals of manufacturing science. The primary research focus is on design, analysis, and control of manufacturing processes and systems.

The faculty of the LMP work closely with industry, primarily through seven industrial consortia. These are; the Precision Engineering Group, the 3-D Printing Consortium, the Reconfigureable Tooling Program, the Droplet-Based Manufacturing Consortium, the Tribology Program, the Microcellular Plastics Program, and the Composites Manufacturing Program. In addition, there are various projects with individual companies, and a significant portion of the lab's research (over half) is funded by the U.S. Government (DOD, NSF, NASA, DOE), often with an industrial consortium.


The research activities in the LMP can be roughly subdivided into the following areas:

Manufacturing Process Development

Historically, the LMP has always studied, improved and invented manufacturing processes. In recent years, the emphasis of the lab has shifted from analysis of manufacturing processes to design and control of manufacturing processes. While, analysis still plays an important roll in our work, it is often performed in service to design. Current research projects in this area include novel methods of fabricating tooling and composites, spray forming of metals, new process monitoring technology for continuous casting of metals, microcellular plastics, three dimensional printing of ceramics and metals, real-time control of welding and metal forming processes. (Profs Sachs, Suh, Hardt, Gutowski, Chun)

Precision Engineering

Precision engineering is the study of ways to make machines and components more accurate without a substantial cost increase. This must be done while still meeting various requirements for speed, force, temperature, etc which act to decrease the accuracy of a machine. Thus by its very nature, precision engineering is a multi-disciplinary field. Ongoing projects include an atomic resolution system for increased data storage, development of a magnetically levitated positioning system, and the development of high-precision machine components (such as self-compensating hydrostatic ceramic bearings, highly damped structures, new spindles, ball-screws, kinematic couplings etc.) that will facilitate development of high-precision machines. (Profs Slocum, Trumper, Youcef-Toumi)


Tribology is the study of friction and wear mechanisms. Progess in this area can lead to more predictable and reliable products. Ongoing projects at the Laboratory are exploring wear mechanisms in various applications, including human joint replacement materials, magnetic recording media, electrical contacts, and piston-cylinder interaction in internal combustion engines. (Profs Suh, Rabinowicz [emeritus], and Dr. Saka)

Manufacturing System Design and Operation

Manufacturing systems are comprised of groups of machines, material and information handling devices, storage areas, computers, policies, and people. While machines in isolation are relatively well understood, the interactions that occur within systems are less well known. In the LMP , various approaches to this problem are represented ranging from highly analytical to rule based principles. Of particular interest are models to predict the effects of design choices (such as machines, configurations, policies etc) on system performance, and on optimization methods to make the best possible choices. In studying scheduling and production planning for manufacturing systems, production can be viewed as a control problem, in which decisions must be made rapidly in response to events (such as the failure of a neighboring machine). Current research includes the design and operation of semiconductor fabrication systems, and collaboration with the LFM and LAI programs on factory design and operation for lean production. In addition, the laboratory is in the process of building a new Cellular Manufacturing System which will allow for the study and demonstration of cellular manufacturing principles. (Dr. Gershwin, Profs Cochran, Suh and Gutowski)

Design/Manufacturing Integration

This emerging area concerns itself with the integration of the various phases and activities associated with turning a concept into a deliverable product. This work requires coordination and translation of the customers needs through out the manufacturing enterprise in a way that can be interpreted at the local level. Current efforts in the Lab are focused on formalizing the design and development process, developing new methodologies for concurrent engineering, identifying principles, studying individual cases, and providing tools to aid the designer. (Prof. Suh, Sachs, Clausing, Slocum)


3-D Printing
The 3-D Printing consortium lead by Profs Ely Sachs and Michael Cima has received funding from the NSF to develop new design methodologies to rapidly develop new products to be manufactured by 3-D Printing and other similar "Solid Freeform Fabrication" technologies. In addition, they have also received new funding through an ATP program to apply 3-D Printing to the development of new low cost, high performance tooling for injection molding and other processes.

Precision Engineering
The Precision Engineering Group lead by Professors Alexander Slocum, David Trumper and Kamal Youcef-Toumi, continues to grow significantly as it did last year. Major research areas are; the design and control of nano-scale devices such as the nano-precision profilometer and a magnetically suspended control stage capable of 1 angstrom resolution in a 100um cube workspace. Research continues on the development of precision machine components and the design of new equipment such as a test head for electronic test equipment. This year Prof. Slocum's research team received an R&D 100 award for a water hydrostatic self compensating ceramic bearing. The R&D 100 award is given for the 100 most technologically significant new products for the year by R&D magazine. Last year LMP faculty won two R&D awards; Profs Sachs (3-D Printing) and Slocum (Self Replicated Shear Damper).

State -of -the -Art Maufacturing Cell Laboratory
With the coordinated efforts of Professor's Cochran, Slocum, Chun, Suh and Gutowski and space change funding from the Dean's office, we have made significant progress in establishing a state-of-the-art manufacturing cell laboratory in the LMP. This new facility will allow us to both meet our prototyping fabrication needs and to study the performance and design of manufacturing cells. New equipment recently arrived or soon to arrive which will be used in this cell concept includes; a CNC waterjet cutting machine, Brown and Sharpe CMM, a Bridgeport CNC lathe, thermoforming machine, and a new 8 axis Hexel hexapod milling machine (acquired through an NSF Instrumentation Grant). In addition, the LMP will be acquiring a new tele-conferencing capability.

Droplet-Based Manufacturing
The Droplet-Based Manufacturing Consortium led by Prof Jung-Hoon Chun continues to grow through indutrial, NSF and DOE support. As a outgrowth of this area, Professor Chun's group has developed a new technique to measure the solidification front during continuous casting . This is the first technique of its kind that can be used on-line to control the continuous casting process.

Reconfigureable Tooling
Professor's David Hardt and Mary Boyce have received significant new funding through an ARPA project on Reconfigurable Tooling for the Rapid-Response Forming of Aerospace Structures. This funding has led to the development of a new industrial consortium on sheet metal forming with the mission to develop full scale production machinery.

Composites Processing
New work in advanced composites processing involves the development of two new forming processes by Prof Gutowski's group to be developed jointly with Boeing and NSF.

Professor David Cochran joins the LMP
David Cochran, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, joined the LMP in Feburary of 1995. Professor Cochran received his B.S.,and Ph.D. degres at Auburn University, and his M.S. from the Pennsylvania State University. He is the winner (1989) of The Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence. Professor Cochran comes to MIT with 5 years of industrial experience from Ford, where he worked of the design of flexible factories for electronic fabrication. Prof. Cochran's current research interests are in the areas of cellular manufacturing, set-up time reduction and factory design. Prof Cochran is leading the LMP's effort to develop a new state-of-the -art manufacturing cell for teaching and research.

Timothy G. Gutkowski

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95