Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) is actively engaging multiple federal resources and programs to accelerate and expand growth of advanced materials and advanced manufacturing in the aviation industry in Wichita, Kansas and beyond.
NIAR leaders, some of the nation’s foremost experts in advanced materials and advanced manufacturing, realize the importance of providing industry leaders and small businesses with access to understanding key benefits of these technologies. NIAR is focused on engaging with these businesses to successfully insert advanced technologies into their business model and production lines of future aircraft.
“Advanced materials coupled with advanced manufacturing technologies will be one of the core drivers for success of multiple industries sectors in the future,” said John Tomblin, WSU senior vice president for Industry and Defense Programs and NIAR executive director.
Most recently, NIAR received $10 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to fund these programs through the university’s long-established FAA Center of Excellence (COE) for Composites and Advanced Materials (CECAM). The FAA has allocated $4.5 million for research focused on metallic additive manufacturing for aircraft design and certification and $5.5 million for nonmetallic advanced materials research. These research programs support key FAA initiatives through the evaluation of the readiness of emerging technologies and practices and in shaping FAA policy, guidance, engineering standards, and training.
CECAM is part of the FAA’s Joint Advanced Materials & Structures COE, which was co-founded in 2004 alongside the University of Washington’s Advanced Materials in Transport Aircraft Structures COE.
In addition to these funds, NIAR is actively employing a $51.4 million grant from the Economic Development Administration aimed at the development and adoption of emerging smart manufacturing technology.
These funds are already being used in the development and implementation of industry-focused training courses to introduce and familiarize technologies such automated fiber placement, additive manufacturing, and advanced machining. Upcoming course information is available at www.wichita.edu/industry_and_defense/NIAR/events.php.
The EDA grant will also fund a unique new facility on the Wichita State campus to house new smart manufacturing equipment and hybrid technical training. The Hub for Advanced Manufacturing Research, a 150,000-square-foot facility, will be near NIAR headquarters and Woolsey Hall, home of the W. Frank Barton School of Business, and will open in 2025.
This facility will complement NIAR’s existing Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems (ATLAS), a nearly $180 million investment with facilities on and off-campus focused on automated manufacturing processes that incorporate machine learning.
Senator Jerry Moran has played a critical role in familiarizing government agencies and the Department of Defense with the multitude of knowledge, talent and resources available at Wichita State and NIAR.
“Advancing manufacturing capabilities within the United States are essential for the health of the economy and our success as a nation,” said Senator Moran. “Wichita already has an extensive history in aircraft manufacturing, and the resources currently in development at Wichita State’s and NIAR will help Wichita be a leader in both aviation and advanced manufacturing.”
These resources and NIAR’s reputation for novel research and development in the additive and advanced manufacturing have attracted renowned subject matters experts to the university. WSU-NIAR recently hired two advanced manufacturing experts Mark Shaw and Lauren Tubesing, formerly with GE Additive. NIAR also announces the addition of Chris Boshers, a 40-year advanced materials expert who has spent his career working for Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems.
“The resources that have been allocated to NIAR are the result of a strategic focus on advancing the future of manufacturing for Wichita, Kansas and the United States,” said Tomblin. “We are fortunate to be in a unique position to assist industry with the adoption and development of transformative technologies while also educating the future workforce and providing students with paid applied learning positions to supplement their education – both efforts that will bolster the nation’s manufacturing stronghold.”
These efforts complement the recent CHIPS and Science Act, which the Kansas Department of Commerce is engaging to attract EMP Shield and Integra Technologies to the state.
Integra Technologies was attracted to Wichita due to its existing resources. The company plans to build a $1.8 billion, 1 million-square-foot microchip manufacturing and testing facility in Sedgwick County. EMP Shield anticipates leveraging the funds to establish a $1.9 billion computer chip manufacturing facility in Coffey County, approximately, 130 miles northeast of Wichita.
Moran supported the CHIPS and Science Act to help strengthen the nation’s economic and national security.
“This bill works to secure domestic semiconductor supply chains and to marshal all of our nation’s research and development resources to out-compete our adversaries in the 21st Century,” said Moran. “Wichita State’s NIAR and the state of Kansas have the experience necessary to help achieve these goals.”
“Our work in advanced manufacturing and digital transformation research has elevated Wichita State as one of the key players in these fields,” said WSU President Rick Muma. “As we continue to engage, attract and partner with some of the most prolific names in these industries, we’re driving economic and educational opportunities for our students, our community and our state.”