MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


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 mission of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity is to be a leader in the development and application of manufacturing technology to improve the manufacturing enterprise. The key intellectual components of this mission are developed through a coordinated program of teaching and research in the following areas: development of new process technology; integration of process knowledge into product design; and integration of the process into manufacturing system design and operation.

The outputs of the laboratory are engineering leaders for industry and academia, as well as new technologies, methodologies and knowledge for the improvement of the manufacturing enterprise.

The faculty of the LMP work closely with industry, primarily through industrial consortia and project. These include the Precision Engineering Group, the 3-D Printing Consortium, the Reconfigurable Tooling Program, the Droplet-Based Manufacturing Consortium, the Tribology Program, the Microcellular Plastics Program, the Composites Manufacturing Program, the Leaders for Manufacturing Program (Research Group 5 -- Design and Operation of Manufacturing Systems), and the Lean Aircraft Initiative. There are various projects with individual companies. A significant portion of the lab's research is funded by the U.S. Government (DOD, NSF, NASA, DOE), often with an industrial consortium.


In terms of research dollars, the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity enjoyed its best year ever last year with a research volume of $3.3 M. This growth was made possible by the combined efforts of the thirteen faculty and staff of the lab. A few projects contributed disproportionately to this increase. These included the work of Professor Ely Sachs (3D Printing), Professor Alex Slocum (Precision Engineering), and Professor David Hardt (Reconfigurable Tooling). Continued growth in these areas and others indicates that we will top last year's figure during the current year.


The research efforts of the LMP faculty have again been recognized nationally. Professor Alex Slocum once again won the prestigious R&D 100 Award. This award, given for the 100 most technologically significant products developed in 1995, was bestowed upon Slocum for his "self compensating hydrostatic bearings". Last year the faculty of the LMP won two of these awards. These were given to Professor Alex Slocum for his "replicated internal shear damper" and to Professor Emanuel Sachs for his invention of the three-dimensional printing process.

This year one of our students, David Levy, won the highly esteemed Lemelson Prize for invention.


In the past year several significant new and/or continuing programs were funded:

Professor Jung-Hoon Chun started a new program on Continuous Casting Monitoring; (this is based on a significant new gamma ray attenuation technique), and he has received several new awards in the area of his uniform metal droplet process.

Professor David Cochran has started the "Lean Production Facility" within the LMP to study and demonstrate the principles of manufacturing cell design. This effort is taking advantage of the new renovations in the lab and new machine tools which the LMP has received and will be receiving in the near future. Professor Cochran has also received several new awards to support this work.

Professor Alex Slocum received a significant grant from the U.S. Naval Research Lab to study Lean and Agile Precision Machining.

Professor Ely Sachs has started several new efforts related to 3D Printing and solid free form fabrication.

Professor David Hardt has received a significant award for reconfigurable tooling for rapid response forming of aerospace structures.

Professor David Trumper has received several new grants in the area of precision lithography.

Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi has received several new awards in the area of atomic precision positioning.

Professor Timothy Gutowski has received a new award in the area of advanced composites forming.

Dr. Stanley Gershwin has received a new award in the area of design and operation of manufacturing systems.

Dr. Don Clausing has received a new award from Ford Motor Co. in the area of strategic reusability planning and management.

Some new machines which we have recently acquired through the efforts of our faculty are: a Coordinate Measuring Machine, a Water Jet Cutting Machine, a Bridgeport Manual/CNC Lathe, a Thermoforming Machine, a new Teleconferencing Station, and a state-of-the-art Eight Axis Hexel Hexapod Milling Machine (acquired through an NSF Instrumentation Grant).

The Laboratory has established a web page at the following address:


Dr. Stanley B. Gershwin has been appointed Associate Director of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity. He will assist in the development of new programs, in Laboratory administration, and in developing the LMP Collegium. This position is now funded by an allocated expense account, which was created by the Laboratory faculty; future funding will come from Collegium fees.

Professor Don Clausing was named a Xerox Fellow in Competitive Product Development.

Professor David Hardt was appointed Co-Director of the Leaders for Manufacturing Program.



A significant portion of the LMP funding is from the federal government (about 58% of $3.3 M in FY '95). In particular, the faculty of the LMP have been quite successful at winning ARPA type contracts. We also have significant NSF and DOD support. If these types of funds were to go away, there would be a significant impact on the LMP.

On the other hand, the LMP projects at these agencies tend to be relatively small (usually under $1M) and diverse. Furthermore, many of these projects address those particular issues which are of concern during tight budget times. Much of our work will lead to lower cost processing. And some of our projects are specifically intended to save money, (e.g. cell redesign, rapid and agile manufacturing etc.). In addition, several new and potentially significant programs are in the initial stages of development. These are related to our two most recently hired faculty members, Professor David Cochran (Cell and Factory Design) Professor Sanjay Sarma, (Machine Control and Telemachining).

Hence, while there is concern, there is also reason for optimism that the LMP is doing what is needed in these economically difficult times. Furthermore, because of our diverse nature, the LMP is much more flexible than some organizations and can better respond to changes in funding patterns.


The long-term goal for the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity is to maximize its impact on manufacturing industry. This can be done primarily in the area of education. The research conducted in the laboratory will support educational activities. Many of the new research projects in the LMP are "proactive" with a strong design and build component which is often done in teams. Future plans for the laboratory are to emphasize the development of the building concept (in teams) as an educational and research experience for both graduates and people from industry.

In one idea under consideration, participants will actually design and build a manufacturing cell in the lab. This type of project will require significant resources for equipment, space and technical personnel. The first embodiment of this idea will be through the existing graduate manufacturing course 2.810 and will use the LMP's "Lean Production Facility." Future versions will lead to a stand alone course for students and then a version for industry. Trial discussions with industry have been very well received. We believe that such integrative projects will provide a significant vehicle for unifying the work of the various faculty in the lab and provide a result which is truly greater than the sum of the parts.


The Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity plays two roles; one as an interdepartmental research lab, and the other as the manufacturing teaching lab for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In recent years, to accommodate budget restrictions, the support provided by the Department of Mechanical Engineering for technical instructors has been reduced and that in turn has placed serious strains on the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity. We believe that the long term solution to this problem involves the LMP becoming the manufacturing teaching laboratory for other departments. Recently, for example, we assisted with the CAD/CAM teaching for the Aero-Astro graduate course (16.870 Aerospace Product Design). The laboratory would like to develop a closer relationship with the Aero-Astro department, as well as other groups (e.g. the School of Architecture's Design Studio) and develop a strategy to share CAD/CAM, shop and fabrication facilities. In general we believe that the trend in engineering education is toward a new emphasis on practice and design. Given the LMP's significant facilities and knowledge in these areas, we are optimistic about the future and our ability to meet the needs of both industry and MIT.

We will be expanding our contacts with industry in various ways. We plan to devote significant efforts to the expansion of our Collegium. For that purpose, a major meeting is planned on October 15-16, 1996. This meeting will not only be a presentation of our recent research; a "best practices" workshop will provide industry people an opportunity to learn from each other, and we will learn from them. In addition, we will continue to offer our popular Summer Session short course, 2.85s, "New Developments in Manufacturing Process Technology."

Timothy G. Gutowski
Stanley B. Gershwin

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96