U-M, Ohio State Partner in $148M Lightweight Materials Effort

In a speech today, President Obama will detail plans for the $148 million American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), a new high-tech manufacturing research facility that will be located outside of Detroit in Canton, MI. The institute is set to open this spring; officials say it’s expected to bring 10,000 jobs to the Midwest region over the next five years.

Lightweight materials such as high-strength aluminum, steel, magnesium, and titanium alloys are already in development for use in vehicle applications. The ALMMII is tasked with developing manufacturing processes that make the materials more affordable and able to be produced on a large scale.

“The challenge of fuel economy is that the application of these lightweight materials can raise the cost of the vehicle,” Alan Taub, professor of materials science at the University of Michigan and the ALMMII’s chief technical officer, said in an interview. “We’re focused on lowering the cost of these advanced materials.”

The ALMMII will be led by U-M, Ohio State University, and the Ohio-based manufacturing nonprofit EWI. Taub says the institute’s purpose is to commercialize basic research on advanced lightweight materials. The ALMMII will partner with more than 50 companies, universities, and nonprofits in the effort, which includes a workforce development component and $100 million in contracted research and development projects.

Taub says the ALMMII will nurture advanced materials innovations across the transportation supply chain, from design through production. Researchers will concentrate on cars, trucks, airplanes, and boats in both the commercial and military sectors.

In addition to being the headquarters of the domestic auto industry, Taub says this part of the Midwest was chosen to house the ALMMII because of its concentration of metalworking talent. Of the 400,000 metal workers in the United States, more than half are in the Midwest.

The bulk of the 10,000 jobs created by the new institute will be in metal stamping, metalworking, machining, and casting. The ALMMII plans to train hundreds of metal-related engineers and thousands of skilled trade workers. It will receive $70 million in federal funding over five years, which will be matched by another $78 million from the institute’s partners.

The ALMMII is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, the Obama administration’s initiative to help American manufacturers compete globally. The federal government chose the team from U-M and OSU to host the institute after a competitive national selection process.

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