DoD Renews LIFT Lightweight Manufacturing R&D Program

Industrial research partnership negotiating a new long-term agreement with DoD, to continue pursuit of advanced lightweight metal manufacturing technologies

The Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) initiative has drawn a renewed contract from the U.S. Dept. of Defense to continue work on critical defense programs, and announced that it is negotiating a new long-term partnership agreement with DoD. “The first five years of our institute have been a tremendous success, moving from an idea on paper to creating a world-class facility in Detroit and building an ecosystem of experts across the country,” stated Nigel Francis, LIFT CEO and executive director.

“The value we have shown the Department of Defense, together with our industry and academic partners, enabled this extension and we are now working towards a new long-term agreement to be in place in the near future,” he continued.

LIFT, is public-private partnership focused on developing and deploying of advanced lightweight metal manufacturing technologies, and implementing education and training initiatives. It coordinates academic and institutional research with likely and/or available industrial partners, with specific development targets.

LIFT is operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), and seeks also to prepare current and future workers for new manufacturing methods. It is one of the founding institutes of Manufacturing USA, and is funded in part by the Dept. of Defense, with management through the Office of Naval Research.

One of the recent projects at LIFT set out to develop “a localized physics-based visco-plastic finite element model” to predict mechanical deformation response, damage evolution mechanisms, and fatigue properties of forged Al-Li alloys. “We completed the first phase (of the research program), which was to develop the model for microstructure development and texture prediction in forging,” LIFT chief technology officer Alan Taub explained recently.

In the current phase, called “Forging and Processing of Al-Li for Improved Performance and Structural Life”, and in progress now, LIFT researchers are working to create a tool that engineers may use to model and predict mechanical responses of the material during forging.

Among the projects that LIFT and its partners have completed are:
– Methods for reducing the weight of cast iron automotive parts by 50%;
– Streamlined shipbuilding process via reducing distortion caused by welding, and using lightweight materials;
– Optimized the design of anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control system kits for military Humvees, cutting fatal rollovers by 74%;
– Launched the “MakerMinded” online STEM activity and competition platform for middle and high-school students in eight states;
– Developed the IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing foundational curriculum, piloted at schools in three states, to prepare high schoolers for 21st Century design and production.
– Designed and implemented 40 education and workforce development partnerships in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, to address the manufacturing skills gap and align technology and talent development in advanced manufacturing

Among the manufacturing partners of LIFT are American Axle & Manufacturing, ArcelorMittal, Boeing Co., Carpenter Technologies, Comau, Eaton, Fanuc, General Electric, GKN, Heller, Lockheed Martin, and many others.