Oak Ridge National Laboratory



Media Contact: Jennifer Palmer (palmerja@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Innovations in manufacturing

ORNL is discovering and developing advanced materials that will help reinvigorate manufacturing industries.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 16, 2011 — Oak Ridge National Laboratory's science and technology resources are transforming the next generation of scientific discovery and helping to rebuild and revitalize U.S. manufacturing. From concept to commercialization, ORNL's facilities and expertise enable the deployment of innovative manufacturing and materials technologies, and the laboratory's aggressive commercialization program provides technology-based solutions to industries engaged in virtually every sector of the nation's economy.

Advanced Materials

Discovering New Materials

Building 60 years of experience materials science, ORNL is discovering and developing advanced materials that will help reinvigorate manufacturing industries. These include strong, durable and inexpensive steel alloys for a variety of industrial applications; new carbon-based materials used to purify waste water resulting from natural gas production; and tough but affordable surface treatments and coating materials that provide four to eight times the durability of heat-treated steels.

Storing Energy

Taking greater advantage of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, will require advances in advanced battery technology. Advanced batteries will also be critical to reducing the consumption of fossil fuels for transportation. ORNL's unparalleled expertise in materials characterization and analysis is leading the development of a new generation of batteries that promised to increase the storage capacity of wind- and solar-powered systems, and provide improved performance for electric vehicles.

Reducing Weight

Weight reduction is the key to energy efficiency in transportation and in the rapid deployment and maneuverability of our military forces. Reducing vehicle weight, combined with efforts to increase engine performance, could allow result in the development of passenger cars that achieve 100 mpg without compromising safety or performance. ORNL researchers are developing a new generation of carbon fiber composite materials and lightweight metal alloys to meet the weight reduction challenge.

Innovative Processing Technologies

Reducing Costs

Applications of two promising materials, titanium and carbon fiber, have been limited by of their high cost. However new titanium fabrication processes developed by ORNL have the potential to reduce energy costs by as much as 50%. Similarly, new low-cost carbon fiber production technologies are steadily reducing the cost of this ultra-strong, lightweight material. ORNL is the recognized leader in these advanced processing technologies, which will enable broader deployment of these critical lightweight materials.

Increasing Performance

The use of magnetic fields to complement or eliminate conventional heat treatments can produce enhanced properties in a variety of materials including steel, titanium, magnesium, and other material systems. ORNL's ground breaking research in magnetic field has revealed a range of formerly unattainable material properties. The laboratory's investment in pulsed thermal processing, spanning most of a decade, is now paying dividends as it enables manufacturing innovation in flexible electronics and next-generation solar photovoltaic devices.

Minimizing Lead Time Additive manufacturing combines digital design, powder materials and efficient energy sources to manufacture complex components. These technologies are leading a paradigm shift in how complex components are designed and produced in an environment no longer constrained by traditional manufacturing processes. ORNL is employing its capabilities in ultrasonic, electron beam and laser deposition to realize the full potential of this adaptive technology.

Automation and Controls

Modeling and Simulation

Modeling, simulation and automation reduce the manufacturing design, production cycle and cost of manufacturing. ORNL's world-leading supercomputing facilities and broad modeling capabilities allow scientists and engineers to accelerate product design from concept to commercialization.

Sensing, Tracking, and Measurement

Advanced sensors and sensor networks will revolutionize manufacturing by providing industry with the tools needed to understand and optimize efficiency and lower operational costs. ORNL's research in sensing is focused on biochemical, environmental, robotics, advanced logistics and process control systems, and intelligent sensor technologies for applications that advance science, improve energy efficiency and enhance national security.

Communicating Wirelessly

Robust wireless communication networks offer rapid technology insertion and minimum cost of retrofit for reliable process control. From one-of-a-kind processes to intelligent robotics for manufacturing, the development and deployment of process automation and control are critical for productivity improvement in industry. ORNL leads the industry effort to establish wireless communication protocols and demonstrate the application of high-payoff wireless communication in industrial settings.

Where Innovation Happens

The U.S. manufacturing industry is a cornerstone of the nation's economy and embodies the innovation and productivity that have enabled the U.S. to be the leader in advanced manufacturing technologies since the early 20th century. Manufacturing and materials research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is focused on improving the energy efficiency of the nation's industries and supporting development of new products. Through these efforts, in partnerships with more than 1,000 companies, the laboratory has demonstrated its ability to work with the nation's manufacturers to develop and implement technologies that will drive manufacturing innovations for decades to come.