Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity

The Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity (LMP) is an interdepartmental laboratory in the School of Engineering with the following three major goals: the development of the fundamental principles of manufacturing systems, processes, and machines; the application of those principles to the manufacturing enterprise; and the education of engineering leaders.

With 13 faculty and senior research staff and 70 graduate students, the laboratory conducts research in the areas of design, analysis, and control of manufacturing processes and systems.

This research is conducted through industrial consortia, sponsored research projects, and government grants. LMP's major areas of interest include production system design, precision engineering, three-dimensional printing, rapid autonomous machining, reconfigurable tooling, droplet-based manufacturing, automatic identification, continuous casting monitoring, machine elements and systems design, tribology, microcellular plastics, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), nanomanufacturing, renewable energy, and environmentally benign manufacturing. In addition, LMP works closely with many other departments, labs, and programs at MIT, including the Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA), the Leaders for Manufacturing Program, and the Lean Aerospace Initiative. Many of our research projects are also with individual companies. In total, the laboratory works with about 50 different companies worldwide. Our government support, which is often coordinated with industrial support, comes from a variety of agencies: the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Energy.

The Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity experienced an increase in research volume for the year 2002–2003. The total research volume for the laboratory was $3,667,000. This research volume was bolstered by the very active programs of Professors Sachs, Chun, Hardt, and Nayfeh and Dr. Gershwin.

Research and Education Highlights and Awards

In the past year, we have seen significant new trends within the laboratory. There has been a shift in activity to nanotechnology. In particular, Professors Jung-Hoon Chun, Alex Slocum, N. P. Suh, and Sang Kim are now actively engaged in this research. As part of this new thrust, the first International Conference on Nano-Manufacturing was held at MIT this year under the guidance of Professor Jung Hoon Chun. There has also been a shift to research projects oriented toward the environment. Professor Ely Sachs is now actively engaged in research projects for renewable energy, and Professor Timothy Gutowski is engaged in research projects for environmentally benign manufacturing. At the same time, there are significant educational activities in the laboratory. Professors Chun and Hardt and Dr. Gershwin are actively involved in the SMA Program. Professor Sachs will devote his teaching time this term to the development of undergraduates' hands-on exploration projects. Professor Gutowski and Dr. Gershwin have developed new subjects in their areas, and Professors Sarma, Trumper, and Culpepper have all been actively engaged in undergraduate curriculum development.

This last year Professor Jung-Hoon Chun played an important leadership role in bringing together many of the world experts in nanotechnology to develop a new vision for nanomanufacturing. This work included the preparation of a white paper, a proposal, and a successful international conference. In addition, Professor Chun and his graduate student, Wayne Hsiao, received an Outstanding Technical Paper Award for their presentation, "Bouncing of Molten Solder Droplets during Solder Bump Formation," at the 2002 International Conference on Electronics Packaging in Tokyo, Japan.

Professor Culpepper received a 2003 R&D 100 Award for the HexFlex nano-manipulator, which achieves nanometer-level resolution, 300 times better thermal stability, and 20 times lower cost as compared to the state-of-the-art manipulators. The HexFlex is designed to satisfy nanoscale manipulation requirements of emerging small-scale technologies while reducing the overhead costs associated with alignment and packaging. Professor Culpepper has also solved a century-old problem: obtaining real-time, micron-level accuracy in alignment fixtures. His group has demonstrated the means to make smart fixtures, which can change shape, thereby correcting alignment and enabling micron-level accuracy.

Dr. Stanley B. Gershwin continues his high level of activity with the Singapore-MIT Alliance and his systems research, which is currently focused on complex manufacturing systems analysis models. Last year he was honored with two important awards: Best Paper Award for the IIE Transactions focus issues on Design and Manufacturing for 2000–2001; and Outstanding IIE Publication Award for 2000–2001. Corporate support for Dr. Gershwin's manufacturing systems research has been provided by Xerox and Peugeot. He has also collaborated with the Auto-ID Center to evaluate Auto-ID technology in inventory management.

Professor Timothy Gutowski's research effort now focuses primarily on the environmental aspects of manufacturing. His current work includes the concept of eco-efficiency, "green engineering principles," and recycling analysis using an information theoretical approach. He has recently received an NSF award to study the environmental impacts associated with manufacturing processes.

Professor David Hardt has taken a principal leadership role as liaison faculty in manufacturing to the Singapore-MIT Alliance. As part of his responsibilities, he has developed a MEng in manufacturing degree program for Singapore, taught simultaneously via internet at MIT and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. This degree involves a highly integrated set of courses that covers topics such as processing, equipment, automation, process control, and systems and product design, as well as basic business issues. It has now has been delivered to three classes of SMA students, and there are plans to migrate a version of this degree to MIT. Professor Hardt has also expanded his research in process control to include problems in microembossing and to a generalization of the concept of "cycle-to-cycle" control.

Sang-Gook Kim's research effort has been focused on applying MEMS technology for micro-optical devices and nanoscale manufacturing systems. Novel functionalities have been created into microdevices by applying MEMS technology, and five patent filings have been made in the last year. A new concept of nanostructure assembly has been invented. He has been honored as one of the first Deshpande Center grantees for his idea of nanopellets. He taught 2.009 (section instructor) in the fall semester and was on professional leave in the spring semester.

Professor Samir Nayfeh is developing significant new research in precision machine design, mechanical power transmission, machine dynamics, and control. His group has designed and built a radically new bias ply weaving system and equipment for composite materials fabrication.

Professor Emanuel Sachs, the Fred Fort Flowers '41 and Daniel Fort Flowers '41 professor of mechanical engineering, is working on photovoltaics—solar panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity using semiconductor devices. Photovoltaics is already the energy source of choice for remote telecommunications and for rural electrification. Sachs' goal is to contribute to the realization of photovoltaics, which is cost competitive with electricity from fossil fuels. He is the inventor of the "String Ribbon" process for the manufacture of crystalline silicon substrates for solar cells. This process is being commercialized by Evergreen Solar of Marlboro, MA. In this technology, a flat, thin silicon sheet is grown directly from a melt of silicon, thereby obviating the need to slice and polish wafers from boules or blocks. He is also working on a low-cost, high-performance method to create the metal fingers on top of a solar cell—the fingers that collect the current from the cell.

Professor Sanjay Sarma, the Cecil and Ida Green career development professor, was awarded the Keenan Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education last year. He has continued to be active in the Auto-ID Center cofounded with his colleague, Dr. David Brock. The center's mission is to create an intelligent infrastructure to connect physical objects to the internet and to each other. This consortium continues to grow with applications to inventory control, material tracking and reordering, and material and product recycling. The center now has over 50 sponsors and has started a sister center at the University of Cambridge, England. Professor Sarma has also continued his work in computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing/computer numerical control and haptics. A new computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing system developed by his group is now in negotiation for licensing. He has also designed and constructed a new five-axis milling machine that combines parallel kinematics with serial kinematics.

In the macroworld, Professor Slocum's research group worked with the Overbeck Corporation to create a new high-precision internal grinder for making bearings, which they designed and built in only six months. The grinder was shown at the International Machine Tool Show in Chicago in September 2002 and was featured on the December cover of American Machinist magazine. In the microworld, substantial progress was made in the creation of MEMS relays and a new type of electrostatic actuator that uses half the starting voltage of other actuators. In the nanoworld, the nanogate achieved nanometer-controllable separation between flat plates 1 mm in diameter, which allows for precise molecular flow control of fluids and gasses. The nanogate is being evaluated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for use as a transfer standard.

Professor Nam P. Suh, the Ralph E. and Eloise F. Cross professor of mechanical engineering, has just finished a new book entitled Axiomatic Design and Fabrication of Composite Structures with Dai Gil Lee, and he has completed a second book manuscript entitled A Theory of Complexity and Applications. Both books will be published by Oxford University Press. He has also started a joint project with Lockheed Martin/NASA on the design of a new orbital space plane.

Professor David Trumper was been very active in the development of the undergraduate subject 2.003 Mechanical Engineering. In addition, his research program has continued to grow in the areas of precision motion control and systems, which include fast tool servers and subatomic measurement.

Changes in the laboratory over the last year include the return of Professors Suh, Sachs, Chun, and Kim from sabbatical and/or leave. Professor Sarma received tenure and Professor Cochran has left MIT to pursue his consulting activities full time.

Timothy G. Gutowski
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

More information about the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity can be found on the web at


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