US Army Awards Mississippi State up to $24M to R&D AI-Driven 3D Printing Solutions

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Mississippi State University (MSU) announced that it has been awarded three contracts, worth a total of $8 million, by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), to study the use of AI for quality control in additive manufacturing (AM). MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) is leading the interdisciplinary project, which, depending on the availability of funds, could bring in up to $24 million in total grants over the next three years.

The US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, in Vicksburg, MS. Image courtesy of US Army

Electronics research consultancy Hottinger Bruel & Kjaer Solutions, which has an office on the MSU campus, will also be working on the project to assist the research team on software development. Although each of the three contracts that MSU received was for a different research proposal, all the proposals center on using AI to improve the process of automotive 3D printing, as well as to expand the range of AI-related applications for 3D printed auto parts.

For instance, the team will do a life cycle assessment (LCA) of various 3D printing materials in order to create AI programs that can facilitate predictive maintenance schedules. Another angle to the project includes engineers from MSU’s Center for Cyber Innovation, who will be studying the use of embedded cybersecurity components in the printed parts.

In a Mississippi State press release about the grants from the ERDC, the executive director of CAVS, Clay Walden, commented, “A lot of times there are parts that need to be replaced, but you have a long, complex supply chain involving different companies, and then you have to move the part through a contested environment. …That’s why the Department of Defense is interested in AM, and we’re excited to utilize our expertise in conjunction with ERDC to help develop fully integrated solutions that can support defense missions.” MSU’s vice president for research and economic development, Julie Jordan, added, “This line of impactful research is a testament to our ability to bring together innovative teams that are fully equipped to address national security research priorities.”

Image courtesy of Mississippi State

This is at least the second project to be announced in the last week in which the US Army has awarded funds for automotive 3D printing to a university in a car-manufacturing state. Big government fiscal stimulus is back, and as usual in the US, it’s being directed into the the rest of the economy through the military.

The most noteworthy thing here is the fact that, while the military is ramping up its already-robust support for advanced manufacturing, it’s also branching out that support into areas beyond weapons systems. In fact, the US military is deliberately and disproportionately increasing its R&D investments in areas that are far more related to general infrastructure than to munitions.

In that case, companies that don’t have great exposure to the defense market shouldn’t for that reason count themselves out of the race for defense money in the next few years. The military has taken the lead in shoring up the manufacturing capacity that will take a crack at rejuvenating America’s crumbling infrastructure, so it will be doling out slices of the federal pie rather evenly across all sectors that manufacture for heavy industry.

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