The University Record, October 17, 1994

U, state to establish new manufacturing institute here

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Gov. John Engler and U-M officials announced last week the establishment of a new Institute for Manufacturing Technologies to be located in Ann Arbor.

Responding directly to the needs of private industry, engineers at the not-for-profit institute will develop new technologies and solve specific problems in machining, auto body assembly and laser processing for private manufacturing firms.

The first component of the new U-M institute will be a Center for Laser Processing established by Fraunhofer-USA, a newly organized affiliate of The Fraunhofer Society in Germany. The center will be similar to the internationally recognized Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) in Aachen, Germany. Industrial partners for the Center for Laser Processing include Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, along with 20 small and medium-sized companies in laser processing and the automobile supplier fields.

“The state of Michigan is supporting this new institute as part of our longstanding commitment to provide jobs and opportunities for Michigan workers and private business,” Engler said. “The institute’s immediate goal will be to retain existing jobs and create new jobs by helping Michigan manufacturing firms increase their efficiency, production volume and market share. We estimate that about 9,000 jobs will be created or retained in Michigan, as a direct result of the institute’s activities.”

Applied research and technology deployment at the Institute for Manufacturing Technologies will complement and enhance basic ongoing research in the College of Engineering. Much of the institute’s research activity will be conducted by the College’s faculty, scientists, and graduate and undergraduate students, working under contractual agreements with the institute.

In organizational structure, funding mechanism and research focus, the new Ann Arbor institute will be modeled after the prestigious Fraunhofer Institutes of the Federal Republic of Germany.

“Since their creation in 1949, the Fraunhofer Institutes have established an international reputation for closing the technology gap between academic research and the technology needs of private industry,” said College of Engineering Dean Peter M. Banks. “The Fraunhofer approach to technology transfer has a proven record of success in Europe, and we are delighted that the College will be part of its new United States initiative.”

“Working together with Fraunhofer and private industry, U-M researchers can contribute to the development of technology vital to our state’s and nation’s economic competitiveness,” President James J. Duderstadt said.

Initial funding to establish the Institute for Manufacturing Technologies will be provided through a $250,000 grant from the state. The institute’s $15-million budget for its first five years of operation will be provided by contractual research from industry, the state and Fraunhofer-USA.

“Most research projects at the institute will be short-term (three–six months) with budgets of $5,000 to $30,000,” said George R. Carignan, associate dean for graduate education and research in the College of Engineering. “Priority will be given to projects that provide solutions to immediate technical problems encountered by small- to medium-size manufacturing firms in their production, engineering and design operations. Economic impact and productivity enhancement will be important criteria in establishing project goals.”