The University Record, October 3, 1994

Engineering will lead $7.5 million research initiative

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The College of Engineering will lead a multimillion-dollar, three-year research initiative to develop advanced computer simulations and modeling techniques for design of all types of ground-based vehicles.

A $7.5 million grant to establish the new research center comes from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren. The U-M is contributing an additional $800,000. Other participating universities include the University of Iowa, Howard University, Wayne State University and the University of Wisconsin.

“The center’s purpose is to develop computerized and mathematical tools for use in designing all types of vehicles ranging from tanks to heavy trucks to automobiles,” says Panos Y. Papalambros, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the new Automotive Research Center (ARC).

Papalambros explains that scientists affiliated with ARC will develop computer simulations to aid in vehicle design—along with human-machine interaction models for use in operator training and to study how the driver reacts to a vehicle’s performance.

“Development of more advanced and sophisticated computer techniques will make it possible for manufacturers to reduce costs and design cycle time, along with the need for hardware prototypes,” Papalambros adds. “This is why 18 private corporations—including Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors—are supporting the research center’s activity.”

“This is an ideal program from a technology transfer perspective,” says James MacBain, director of research relations in the College of Engineering’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT). “OTT is looking forward to working with ARC faculty to develop projects with center members from industry and government.”

Housed in the College of Engineering’s Walter E. Lay Automotive Laboratory, which will be upgraded with new equipment, ARC will serve as a link between the civilian and defense vehicle industries, according to Papalambros. To facilitate this information transfer, each research project will be assigned to a four-person unit called a “quad,” made up of one faculty member, one graduate student, one military research engineer and one engineer from private industry.

“The research quad unit is an innovative concept,” Papalambros says. “It’s a new and challenging way to work, but it gives everyone immediate input at the detailed technical level where the actual research takes place.

“ARC is one element in the College of Engineering’s commitment to strengthen its research activity in automotive engineering,” Papalambros notes. “We hope it will attract additional funding from other government agencies and industry in the area of automotive design.”

Other faculty from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics who will be involved in research at the ARC include Arvind Atreya, Christophe Pierre and Jeffrey L. Stein. Faculty from the departments of electrical engineering and computer science and aerospace engineering also will participate.