NCSA to share in $4.5 million project

NCSA to share in $4.5 million project

URBANA – The National Center for Supercomputing Applications will share in a $4.5 million project to help small and medium-sized manufacturers learn how to use state-of-the-art design technologies.

The project, announced Wednesday by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, will involve centers at several universities in the Great Lakes region working with suppliers to major corporations.

NCSA, based on the University of Illinois campus, will likely get about $750,000 of the total, said Merle Giles, director of the private-sector program and economic development at NCSA.

"Our role will be predominantly in technical training," Giles said Thursday. "We'll need to hire two or three people to be 'boots on the ground' in consulting and training suppliers of these firms in advanced modeling and simulation tools."

The project is expected to start in April and last 18 months, he said.

About $2 million of the grant comes from the Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The other $2.5 million comes from four major manufacturers – General Electric, John Deere, Procter & Gamble and Lockheed Martin – plus Purdue University and the state of Ohio.

The money will go to the Council on Competitiveness – a group of CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders – to form the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium.

The money will then be used to develop software, buy time on supercomputers and train small and medium-sized manufacturers in new design technologies.

Some of those manufacturers will be suppliers to the four Fortune 500 companies involved, but other small and medium-sized manufacturers can take part as well, Giles said.

Collaborating with the Council on Competitiveness on the project are: NCSA, based in Urbana; the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Ohio Supercomputing Center, based in Columbus, Ohio.

Giles said NCSA has a "deep understanding" of commercial tools used by manufacturers and will help them improve modeling. Specifically, trainers will emphasize finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics – two "building blocks" for simulations used in manufacturing.

The trainers hired by NCSA will need to have a graduate-school understanding of materials and fluids, Giles said. They will provide on-site consulting to manufacturers.

Giles said he doesn't know yet what Illinois manufacturers NCSA may work with, adding that suppliers for Deere have not yet been identified. Three companies involved in the project – GE, Deere and Procter & Gamble – are already NCSA partners.

The project is specifically geared to suppliers in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, but Giles said it could be a pilot project for similar efforts in other parts of the country.

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