agree that rising Chinese labor costs and improving U.S. technology
will gradually cause significant manufacturing activity to return to the
When it does, a new interdisciplinary manufacturing venture called the Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMTecH) group at the University of Iowa College of Engineering’s Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) will likely help lead the charge.
AMTecH was formed to design, create, and test—both virtually and
physically—a wide variety of electromechanical and biomedical
components, systems and processes. Currently, the group is working on
projects ranging from printed circuit boards for automobiles and
aircraft to replacement parts for damaged and failing human organs and
tissue, says Tim Marler, AMTecH co-director.
“Electromechanical systems are one of two current branches of the
AMTecHgroup,” he says. “We want to simulate, analyze and test printed
circuit boards and assemblies, because they are used in a wide range of
products from missiles to power plants to cell phones.
“The second branch of the group involves biomanufacturing and is led
by my colleague and AMTecH co-director Ibrahim Ozbolat, assistant
professor of mechanical and industrial engineering,” says Marler. “The
long-term goal of this branch is to create functioning human organs some
five or 10 years from now. This is not far-fetched.”
Using its facilities for engineering living tissue systems, the
Biomanufacturing Laboratory at CCAD is working to develop and refine
various 3D printing processes required for organ and tissue fabrication,
“One of the most promising research activities is bioprinting a
glucose-sensitive pancreatic organ that can be grown in a lab and
transplanted anywhere inside the body to regulate the glucose level of
blood,” says Ozbolat. He adds that the 3D printing, as well as virtual
electronic manufacturing, being conducted at AMTecH are done nowhere
else in Iowa.
In fact, the multi-arm bio printer being used in the lab is unique. Ozbolat and Howard Chen, a UI doctoral student in industrial engineering, designed it and Chen built it. It turns out that managing multiple arms without having them collide with one another is difficult enough that other printers used in other parts of the world avoid the problem by using simpler designs calling for single-arm printing. As Chen continues to refine his and Ozbolat's design, the UI printer currently gives the UI researchers a distinct advantage.
While bioprinters at other institutions use one arm with multiple
heads to print multiple materials one after the other, the UI device
with multiple arms can print several materials concurrently. This
capability offers a time-saving advantage when attempting to print a
human organ because one arm can be used to create blood vessels while
the other arm is creating tissue-specific cells in between the blood
The biomanufacturing group, which consists of researchers from
various disciplines including industrial, mechanical, electrical,
polymer and biomedical engineers as well as medical researchers, is
working on this and other projects, and collaborates with Dr. Nicholas
Zavazava, professor of internal medicine, in the UI Roy J. and Lucille
A. Carver College of Medicine. The group also works with researchers
from the college’s Ignacio V. Ponsetti Biochemistry and Cell Biology
In addition to receiving support from the National Institutes of
Health for the artificial pancreas research, AMTecH is looking forward
to continued support from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
as well as seed funding from the UI for fostering commercialization of a
new software product.
“When you look at the U.S. manufacturing environment and relevant
technology, this is a perfect time to launch AMTecH,” says Marler, who
also serves as associate research scientist at CCAD and senior research
scientist at CCAD’s renowned Virtual Soldier Research program.
AMTecH co-directors Marler and Ozbolat are advised by Herm Reininga,
interim director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator and member
of the leadership council of the national Next Generation Manufacturing
Technology Initiative. The AMTecH group also includes one research staff
member, one postdoctoral student, seven graduate students, and four
Located within CCAD, AMTecH conducts cutting-edge research and
development aimed at advancing and exploring next generation
Source: The University of Iowa