IML announces next round of projects targeted toward small, medium manufacturers

March 7, 2016
UI LABS is requesting problem statement proposals from Illinois manufacturers interested in participating in the current round of projects.

The Illinois Manufacturing Lab (IML), a partnership between UI LABS and the University of Illinois with support from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, has announced a second round of advanced manufacturing research projects targeted toward small and medium manufacturers (SMMs).

“At UI LABS, we understand how digital technologies are transforming industries like manufacturing,” said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, M.D., chief executive officer of UI LABS. “The Illinois Manufacturing Lab empowers small and medium manufacturers across the state by taking advances in digital manufacturing and getting them into the hands of these business owners.”

According to the IML, it is looking for opportunities to assist Illinois small businesses in the areas of Toolpath Optimization and Modeling and Simulation. Research will be conducted by university experts and third-party engineering service providers to assist small businesses to solve challenging problems that are having a direct effect on their competitiveness. The objective of the research effort is to facilitate use case development for new online capabilities that will be incorporated into the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute’s (DMDII) Digital Manufacturing Commons (DMC).

“The resources and technical assistance available at the Illinois Manufacturing Lab help small businesses reduce costs and increase productivity, while creating research that will make Illinois manufacturing as a whole more competitive,” Illinois Department of Commerce Director Jim Schultz said. “The second round of research projects will continue to build on the IML’s previous successes and drive developments in advanced manufacturing in Illinois.”

University of Illinois at Chicago Physics Professor George W. Crabtree, Ph.D., and Illinois Applied Research Institute (ARI) Director Jeffrey L. Binder, Ph.D., will be providing logistical and strategic support to the initiative.

“Collaborations between the research community and the private sector are vital to solving major industrial challenges. This next phase of IML seeks to do just that,” said Crabtree, who also holds an appointment at Argonne National Laboratory as director of its Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. “We look forward to lending the expertise and insights of ARI to make this set of IML projects a success,” added Binder. ARI is based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


This next set of projects will build upon the success of the first round of research emerging from the IML. Case studies for projects led by Tek Pak Inc. and other Illinois companies demonstrate gains in productivity and cost savings.

UI LABS is requesting problem statement proposals from Illinois manufacturers interested in participating in the current round of projects. Project areas include the following:

Toolpath Optimization

Waste in the tool path process costs a company both time and capital due to cost of machine utilization time and excessive tool wear. Advances in computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology and software allow for rapid analysis of machine data to optimize tool paths and increase efficiency. IML plans to demonstrate an advanced manufacturing concept that could significantly reduce the cost of conducting a tool path optimization effort on an existing production line through the use of an online template available on the DMC. Illinois SMM’s are being asked to submit problem statements for consideration that describe their machining process and areas where they believe tool path optimization would significantly impact their business.

Modeling and Simulation

Modeling and Simulation technologies allow for faster and less costly evaluations of the performance, manufacturing processes and other factors associated with producing a future product’s conceptual design. IML is looking for companies that have existing products, manufacturing processes, or new design concepts that would directly benefit from the application of advanced Modeling and Simulation technology. Illinois SMM’s are being asked to submit their problem statements for consideration under a new approach involving online software-as-a-service (SaaS) based Modeling and Simulation. The challenges can span the entire realm of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), including concept development through design validation.

Submissions are due no later than April 7, 2016. The problems must be clearly described in order for an independent evaluation team to assess the probability of completing the project objectives within a five-month timeline.

Instructions on how to apply and the information to include in the application, as well as additional details on case studies from previous projects, are available at