WIU Finalizes DoD Contract for QC Manufacturing Lab
June 27, 2011
MACOMB/MOLINE, IL -- In the last decade, the U.S. military has seen an increased demand for high performance structural materials that are also lightweight. More specifically, the Army has seen an increased demand for lightweight armament systems using titanium, aluminum and magnesium. This challenge has led to the creation of the Quad Cities Manufacturing Lab (QCML), a nonprofit research and development company at the Rock Island Arsenal and operated under contract with Western Illinois University's College of Business and Technology (CBT).
Last month, the QCML and WIU finalized a five-year contract with the Department of Defense for research and development of technologies and capabilities associated with manufacturing and processing parts using titanium, aluminum, magnesium and other light weight metals and metal composites.
"Current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly demonstrated the need for lightweight materials to be placed into service in a broad range of military equipment," said Col. James O. Fly, Jr., commander Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center. "It is imperative that strategic advances be made to exploit existing and emerging manufacturing techniques and lightweight materials."
The development capabilities of the QCML will have an immediate application in armament manufacturing to provide better resources for the U.S. military and will provide manufacturing opportunities for commercial industries, especially in the Quad City area.
"Western and the Rock Island Arsenal have been successful partners in education for many years, and we are pleased to enter into this new partnership with the Arsenal and Department of Defense that provides a boost to the region's economic development opportunities, while also providing experience to our engineering students," said WIU President Al Goldfarb.
The QCML cooperative contract is based on annual funding of $4 million which will provide for the acquisition of additional sophisticated equipment to conduct high-level manufacturing research and development.
"The QCML's goal is to meet the dual objectives of technology development and prototype application. The goal of the program is to transfer technology through prototype demonstrations in manufacturing of various armament applications to the Rock Island Arsenal," said QCML Executive Director Jim Sears, a national leader in manufacturing technologies with a background in titanium processing technologies, NNSM, additive manufacturing approaches, powder metallurgy and emerging technologies. "The focus of this program is Near Net Shape Manufacturing (NNSM) of titanium and other advanced metals for armament systems."
Long term, the vision is to build a technological "cluster" of new companies in the Quad Cities region that focus on advanced metal technologies. Through this venture, Western would transfer or license QCML proprietary technologies to other manufacturing companies. Several companies have already expressed interest in locating their operations near the QCML to benefit from these opportunities, according to Sears. He noted that HF Webster has already started planning for relocation to the technology cluster, with the potential of retaining a significant number of jobs at the Arsenal and adding new jobs to the QC region.
"This venture is a win-win all around. It's perfectly aligned with WIU's engineering program," said CBT Dean Tom Erekson. "Through the QCML, our engineering students have opportunities to work with sophisticated equipment, complete internships, conduct research and help in the development of these new technologies."
WIU's first two engineering graduates participated in research at the QCML last year.
The region's interests are represented through the QCML's nine-member board of directors. The team includes leaders from the military, manufacturing and higher education across the region.
"This has been such an outstanding community effort. From the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce to the cities' mayors, all of this wouldn't exist if it weren't for the cooperation and vision of the community," said QCML Board Chair Rick John pointed out.
"Through these efforts within the community, we're also helping to secure a more stable future for the Arsenal," Sears added. "I can't thank our national legislators enough -- Senators Durbin, Grassley, Harkin and Kirk and Representatives Braley, Loebsack and Schilling. With their help, we're creating a viable long-term entity that will create advanced, technology-based jobs for the Quad Cities region."
For additional information, contact Sears at JW-Sears@wiu.edu or visit QCML.org.