Technology’s role in smart manufacturing has long been to enhance operational efficiency through innovation, leading to increased productivity and decreased downtime. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the agency is incentivizing projects that add energy efficiency in Smart Manufacturing to that list of goals through a $1.8 million investment for six projects, each of which will receive $300,000, according to the release published Jan. 18.
The winning teams reportedly will use the U.S. National Laboratories (USNL) resources from the High-Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program, to harness the world’s most powerful supercomputers to address these key goals, working with the technicians at USNL to make smart manufacturing better and more efficient through cleaner energy.
The idea behind the project is that giving access to high-performance computing that isn’t usually available will let innovators and engineers perform virtual experiments through simulations and digital twin-type models. Then, they are able to run those results through advanced data analysis algorithms and statistical models. The DOE said that running these experiments on supercomputers instead of in the real world will allow manufacturers to test new ideas and operational methods in a controlled way, while saving energy, time, and resources.
The six selected projects reportedly will use the National Labs’ supercomputers to optimize processes and end-use products across the manufacturing sector, from increasing the energy efficiency of steelmaking to improving the battery manufacturing process for electric vehicles.
This kind of research toward innovative industrial solutions is ever more critical, especially when we look at research that’s reflecting a retreating market. A recently released report from The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT) showed that new orders of manufacturing technology totaled $436.5 million in November 2022, which is down 4.5 percent from October 2022, and 32 percent from November 2021. This dip in the manufacturing technology market is not unexpected, of course, because of the spike created by COVID conditions, but the path to growth is likely to be through better and more efficient intelligent industrial strategies.
“After recording the highest level of orders in 2021, it was only a matter of time before 2022 fell slightly behind,” said Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT, in the announcement. “The fact that orders stayed above 2021 levels for 10 months really speaks to the continued strength in the demand for manufacturing technology.”
DOE has selected the following projects for the award (descriptions quoted from the announcement):
M2X Energy works to mitigate methane and carbon dioxide emissions by replacing gas flares with systems that manufacture economically viable, low-carbon chemical products. With the HPC capabilities of Argonne National Laboratory, M2X Energy will optimize engine design for methane to syngas reformation resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption from the global upstream oil and gas sector by 43 million metric tons per year.
Solar Turbines Incorporated will use Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s HPC expertise to use crystal plasticity finite element (CPFE) modeling to quantify the factors that drive additive manufacturing surface fatigue behavior. This could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 376 million tons per year.
Steelmaking currently accounts for 8 percent of global carbon emissions. Danieli USA will collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop computational simulation models of the melting processes of direct reduced iron (DRI) and H2DRI for industrial use, accelerating the adoption of low-carbon steelmaking. This could help reduce CO2 emissions by up to 32 million tons per year.
Manufacturing of near-net shape mill-products used in aerospace, automotive and other industries has the potential to significantly reduce both energy use and associated CO2 emissions. Allegheny Technologies Incorporated and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will collaborate to produce HPC-enabled digital twin manufacturing for sustainable metalworking that could reduce material waste from the manufacturing process by 50% and CO2 emissions by 564 tons per year.
Composite Phase change materials (C-PCM) play a critical role in energy and storage industrial applications to drive efficiency improvements, thermal energy management, and carbon emissions reductions. Siemens and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will use HPC to enable high-resolution modeling of the C-PCM microstructure to design better materials for waste heat capture.
An efficient battery manufacturing process is the key to the mass production of electric vehicles, and drying is one of the most energy-intensive steps. Ford Motor Company will leverage the expertise at Sandia National Laboratory to optimize the battery drying process by developing a high-fidelity model for solvent evaporation and transport during drying in a porous electrode structure. This will reduce energy consumption during battery manufacturing and could reduce CO2 emissions by 10 million tons per year.
HPC4Mfg is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office and is a subprogram of the High Performance Computing for Energy Innovation (HPC4EI) initiative. HPC4EI is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.