National Academies Review the Manufacturing-Related Programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

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Publication date: 
29 November 2012
Number: 
140

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)  recently requested that the National Research Council (NRC) assess the quality  of the multidisciplinary, multi-sector, and crosscutting area of the agency’s manufacturing-related  programs.  A panel chaired by Kanti Jain,  physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that was appointed  by the NRC produced the report “A Review of the Manufacturing-Related Programs at the National Institute of  Standards and Technology.”  The panel of  experts visited NIST during which they broadly considered manufacturing  research.  Their report emphasizes three  specific areas of advanced manufacturing:   Nanomanufacturing; Smart Manufacturing; and Next-Generation Materials  Measurements, Modeling and Simulation. 

NIST requested that panelists examine the technical merit  and scientific caliber of manufacturing programs relative to comparable  programs in other countries worldwide.   Specifically, NIST requested that the assessment cover how effective  current metrics are for measuring the value and success of its programs.  Panelists were also asked to assess the  efficacy of NIST’s interaction with outside stakeholders and to examine  coordination and cohesion across NIST advanced manufacturing programs. 

Panelists found that “the  program teams [at NIST] are highly qualified and comparable to the best in the  world.  Equally strong [are] the  equipment and facilities that NIST laboratories have designed, procured, and  built.”  They offered suggestions for  program improvement which include improving the vetting process for project  selection in order to pay greater attention to industry needs, ensuring that  projects have a coherent focus such that related projects have aligned research  efforts, and expanding and enhancing interactions with industry.  

The report provides general comments on the area of Nanomanufacturing  which include potential objectives for nanomanufacturing activities.  It highlights the importance of “bankability,” the idea that many  technologies are too expensive to manufacture and thus cannot be  commercialized. 

The report makes the following recommendations for the area  of Nanomanufacturing:

  1. “NIST  should continue to define its vision for its Nanomanufacturing program, making  clear choices about what nanomanufacturing should be on the basis of the NIST  mission.” 
  2. “NIST should work with industry to develop  metrics for benchmarking the new, potential CMOS [complementary metal oxide  semiconductor] replacement technologies.”
  3. “NIST should make careful judgments about  where it positions itself with respect to device metrology supporting  continuation of semiconductor technology advances.”
  4. “To play an important role with respect to  the issue of bankability of new technologies, NIST should consider providing  methodologies, databases, reference materials, and modeling so as to provide  those in the manufacturing community (especially new entrants) with a way to  evaluate their approaches independently and objectively.”
  5. “Since the structural determination of  biologics may constitute a useful measurement tool for assessing the impact of  modified variants on Biomanufacturing, future work should focus on developing  clear goals that will test the robustness of the approach for specific protein  therapeutics.”

As for the area of Smart Manufacturing, the report  describes the systems approach taken by NIST in order to “see the relationship of discrete elements to the entire system, since  changes to the former can impact system performance.”  The report notes that “all of the research groups in the overall area of Smart Manufacturing  mentioned the need to develop focus for their areas of work.”  The programs highlighted include  next-generation robotics and automation, process and equipment, control  systems, systems integration for manufacturing and construction applications,  sustainable manufacturing, and manufacturing with sustainable materials. 

The report makes the following recommendations for the  area of Smart Manufacturing:

  1. “NIST  should be more proactive at partnering with industry—particularly in the areas of  Additive Manufacturing, Robotics, and Automation—to decrease the gap between industry  needs and the current state of the art at NIST, to decrease the need for NIST to  capitalize, and, more importantly, to decrease the gap between industry needs  and NIST’s data-gathering and standards-development work.”
  2. “To  foster the engagement of stakeholders in additional ways besides industry association  meetings and workshops, focused visits to stakeholders to determine needs and  challenges in each of the Smart Manufacturing programs should be undertaken.”
  3. “NIST  should increase the engagement of stakeholders in the development of the appropriate  Smart Manufacturing program goals and metrics.”
  4. “The  competitiveness of the Smart Manufacturing projects reviewed should be made more  appropriate to current industry practices.”

The area of Next-Generation Materials Measurements,  Modeling, and Simulation is well recognized as a key area of NIST which focuses  on materials instrumentation and measurements.   During the panel’s review, the members noted its high rating for  technical expertise.  They also described  this program’s unique position “to help  co-develop constitutive models with links to industry and academia.”  The report mentions the Materials Genome  Initiative at NIST as an “excellent  source of fundamental information and potential repository and gatekeeper of  scientific data.”  

The report makes the following recommendations for the  area of Next-Generation Materials, Measurements, Modeling and Simulation:

  1. “As  NIST continues its healthy collaboration with industry, its increasing focus on  advanced manufacturing should proceed with additional recognition of industrial  needs. Most of the projects in the area of Next-Generation Materials  Measurements, Modeling, and Simulation should be market-driven, that is, based  on market pull rather than on technology push. In establishing its technical  portfolio, NIST should continue to seek strong partnerships with industrial  consortia when these exist.”
  2. “NIST’s  key manufacturing researchers should visit several manufacturing facilities each  year in order to broaden their understanding of the real-world manufacturing environment.”
  3. “NIST  should take advantage of the opportunity to play an important role in the multiagency  Materials Genome Initiative as the potential repository and gatekeeper of scientific  data from multiple sources. In the design of a next-generation materials database,  strong consideration should be given to seeking a full understanding of the queries  that will be made against the database so that suitable accuracy and dynamic performance  can be obtained. A targeted workshop on handling data should be convened with  industry and other stakeholders.”
  4. “In  line with its role in external programs involving the characterization of nanoparticles  for achieving a greater understanding of environmental, health, and safety  issues and development of in-line nanoscale sensing and measurement capabilities,  NIST should continue to take a visible role in the coordination of related external  efforts in this area within the scope of its Next Generation Materials Measurements,  Modeling, and Simulation work.”
  5. “In  addition to facilitating cross-NIST collaboration in the area of  Next-Generation Materials Measurements, Modeling, and Simulation, NIST should  continue to strengthen partnerships with other research institutions and  industry. The NIST postdoctoral and visiting researcher programs in these areas  should be continued or perhaps even strengthened as a significant source of  renewal and outreach for the permanent staff at NIST.”

The report highlights NIST’s role in national priorities “because the vast scope of manufacturing  encompasses a wide array of disciplines, systems, applications, and  environments” therefore “contributions  made by NIST impact US industry in multiple ways.  As a result of its highly qualified  researchers and advanced facilities that are a national asset, NIST is uniquely  positioned to support US manufacturing broadly….  Because manufacturing covers such a wide  array of disciplines, systems, applications, and environments, advancements can  be made in a multitude of ways.   Recognizing these opportunities and their potential impact, companies  and other organizations also are investing heavily in the pursuit of  manufacturing advancements.” 

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