Project Wins DOE Clean Energy Manufacturing Contract

The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) won a contract to start developing the nation’s first open smart-manufacturing technology platform for collaborative industrial networked information applications. The innovative $10 million project, led by the SMLC, will receive $7.8 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Given the initial energy application focus for the smart manufacturing platform, the principal investigator on the project is Cockrell School of Engineering professor Thomas Edgar, who is also interim director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

tom edgar

Tom Edgar

“By combining high fidelity modeling and novel sensors, we can perform real-time control and optimization of process equipment to achieve significant reductions in energy consumption,” said Edgar, who teaches in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

The co-principal investigators on this project are UT Austin chemical engineering assistant professor Michael Baldea and mechanical engineering professors Joe Beaman and D.K. Ezekoye.

Dean Bartles, SMLC chairman and vice president at General Dynamics, said smart manufacturing infrastructures and approaches will allow operators to make use of “big data” flows from fully instrumented plants to improve safety, environmental impact, and energy, water and materials use.

“Together, we intend to transform industrial productivity and energize a new era of innovation by empowering manufacturers with real-time, plant-wide workflow intelligence needed to deliver higher levels of game-changing competitiveness,” Bartles said.

The overall objectives of the initial SMLC project are to design and demonstrate this common platform that enables data modeling and simulation technologies to actively manage energy use in conjunction with plant production systems. The platform will show how real-time management of energy use as a key driver in business decisions can be applied across many small, medium and large U.S. manufacturing companies.

“For the past two decades, most U.S. manufacturers have managed energy efficiency in their factories and plants passively instead of actively as part of their production systems,” said 
R. Neal Elliott, director of research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a coalition board member. His research estimates that the U.S. can reduce manufacturing energy intensity “by more than half in the next 20 years, as we begin to integrate smart technologies that actively manage energy use across entire manufacturing systems, plants and ultimately supply chains.”

The SMLC’s platform-development approach uses industrial test beds with actual manufacturing data and applications to ensure it is driven by industry needs. The first two test beds funded by the DOE Clean Energy Manufacturing contract will be at a General Dynamics Army munitions plant to optimize heat-treating furnaces and at a Praxair hydrogen processing plant to optimize steam-methane reforming furnaces. Broad adoption of smart manufacturing technologies could help make U.S. manufacturers more competitive by reducing annual generation of CO2 emissions by 69 million tons, and waste heat by 1.3 quads, or approximately 1.3 percent of total U.S. energy use.

With direction from the full membership of the SMLC, the project is a collaborative effort among The University of Texas at Austin, Emerson Process Management, Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions, Invensys, Rockwell Automation, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, University of California Los Angeles and Nimbis Services.

For more information, visit Information for this release was provided by the Smart Manufacturing Coalition.