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Students to turn robots into blacksmiths in new manufacturing competition

blacksmithingPhoto: The Crucible/Flickr, new student competition is merging the ancient skills of the blacksmith with the digital age of robotics to create new material forming capabilities called “Robotic Blacksmithing.” The competition is a joint venture between the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence at The Ohio State University and Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT).

Launching in fall 2016, and running through the 2016-17 academic year, the LIFT Prize in Robotic Blacksmithing introduces digital, or robotic, blacksmithing technology to students and challenges them to make arbitrary, numerically-described objects by re-shaping materials through plastic deformation and incremental forming processes.

Using robotics, students from around the country will be asked to form three useful items such as a horseshoe, goblet and an ultralight-weight truss out of materials of increasing difficulty and importance. The first and simplest phase will utilize clay as the material. Later phases will use soft and hardened metals for respective focus materials.

Through this challenge, LIFT is working to usher in robotic blacksmithing as the next wave of manufacturing technology, following on the heels of the first two revolutions in digital manufacturing we’ve seen change our world: computer numeric control, in which cutting tools precisely remove metal to form complex shapes; and additive manufacturing and 3-D printers, which add successive volumes of material by computer control to create complicated solid components.

“This program will bring these students to the cutting edge of manufacturing technology and prepare the industry for the next big change in technology,” said Glenn Daehn, professor of material science and engineering and the competition’s technical director. “By engaging students through competition, we are encouraging them to develop the skills they need to become the innovators and leaders the manufacturing industry needs to thrive in the future.”

“The manufacturing industry is changing rapidly, and we need to ensure the workforce of the future has the skills and is confident in using new lightweighting technologies and processes,” said Emily Stover DeRocco, director of education and workforce development at LIFT. “This competition will put the latest technology in the hands of students to both provide them the skills they need and encourage them to consider manufacturing as a career in the future.”

Because robotic blacksmithing is a new manufacturing process without specific defined system requirements, the challenge is “open” meaning only the materials used and desired output is defined, not the process used to achieve it, fostering important innovation.

Student teams began registering in August 2016 and will work through March 2017. The competition is open to students from high school, community college, career and technical colleges, and colleges and universities. After judging by industry experts and educational leaders, winner announcements are expected in April 2017.

For more information, please visit Complete official rules will be posted in fall 2016.

To help support the competition and invest in the future of manufacturing, LIFT encourages local manufacturers to both sponsor and mentor teams in their communities.

“So many of the communities in the LIFT region of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee rely on local manufacturers as the backbone of their economies,” DeRocco said. “To continue these synergies, we are encouraging those companies to help invest in the future by supporting competition teams in their schools.”