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From left to right: Advanced Manufacturing Graduate Student, Wentao Fu; Operations Research and Industrial Engineering Graduate Student, Ranjith Polad; Advanced Manufacturing Graduate Student, Charles Manion; Postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Ata Eftekhsarian; and Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor, Dr. Matt Campbell

From left to right: Advanced Manufacturing Graduate Student, Wentao Fu; Operations Research and Industrial Engineering Graduate Student, Ranjith Polad; Advanced Manufacturing Graduate Student, Charles Manion; Postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Ata Eftekhsarian; and Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor, Dr. Matt Campbell

 

Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor and William J. Murray Fellow, Matt Campbell, received $500,000 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build an automated toolkit that streamlines the design and manufacturing processes of complex military vehicles for the Department of Defense (DOD). At the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Campbell is the only faculty member involved in this project.

AVM Portfolio and iFAB

Last summer, DARPA signed a $48 million contract with Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory as part of DARPA's Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) Portfolio of Programs. The main goals of the project are: to engage non-traditional participants in the design of military equipment; and to revolutionize the design and manufacturing processes of complex defense systems. In October 2012, DARPA launched the Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Challenges. Participating designers of the FANG challenges are asked to create and test their work through VehicleForge, a collaborative design platform featuring the META Program (partly developed at Vanderbilt University), Instant Foundry Adaptive through Bits (iFAB), as well as a virtual library with current tank parts and systems.

Dr. Campbell's Research

Campbell's research team for the iFAB project include Advanced Manufacturing graduate students Wentao Fu and Charles Manion; Operations Research and Industrial Engineering Student (ORIE) graduate student, Ranjith Poladi; and Post-Doctoral fellow, Dr. Ata Eftekhsarian. Dr. Campbell and his team are currently automating the assembly stages of the iFAB toolkit. iFAB's aim is to shorten the production schedule of complex military vehicles by using a purely virtual infrastructure.

Dr. Campbell's research considers several assembly operations, the geometric complexity of the vehicle's parts, and their materials. It then delivers an assembly process in visual and written form. The visual renditions include three-dimensional diagrams to guide human workers through the assembly stages of complex weaponry—not unlike LEGO manuals. In his own words, his tools will help bring about "lean[er] manufacturing." iFAB instills in designers an efficient utilization of current infrastructure and technology, thereby reducing production costs and schedules.

Campbell's assembly planning research also optimizes assembly space, minimizing spatial reconfigurations, and penalizing assembly plans that include time-consuming steps (e.g., lifting objects heavier than 40 lb). To apply this innovative manufacturing process, DARPA and Penn State are repurposing some productive facilities at the DOD's Rock Island Arsenal, in Rock Island, Illinois, and where most of the contract money will ultimately flow.

FANG Challenges

The FANG challenges are a series of competitions open to US designers to create innovative infantry fighting vehicles through the virtual infrastructure VehicleForge. In the first stage, the competition seeks the most efficient drivetrain design for tanks. If selected, the inventor will receive $1 million for the design. The Rock Island Arsenal facilities will serve as stage for the development, and manufacturing of the winning design. The goal is to allow independent minds to design AVM vehicles and weaponry. DARPA hopes that the democratization of military design will reduce the costs for the DOD, and the security risks of prolonged weaponry development. At present, they are expecting 1,000 queries per day on the VehicleForge website. DARPA's frontier research has earned them extraordinary merits since its inception in 1958, including the Stealth Fighter and the M16 Assault Rifle, as well as ARPANET (pdf), the Internet's predecessor.


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