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State grant allows OHIO to partner with four companies on new manufacturing project

In a first-ever joint venture, Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology will partner with the state of Ohio’s Advanced Manufacturing Program and four industrial partners — MIBA Bearings US LLC, MIBA Sintering Group, Universal Technology Corporation and Ariel Corporation — to research the manufacturing of inexpensive and high-performance industrial bearings with a long service life. Such a bearing could address existing issues with current bearings that are used in the industrial marketplace.

“The issue of developing high-performance hydrodynamic bearings has a national importance,” said Dr. Muhammad Ali, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, affiliate of OHIO’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP) and principal investigator of the project. “A low-cost process of a technologically better bearing will increase revenues because the market will be expanded. The results of this project will benefit the local manufacturing industry and Ohio manufacturing companies.”

The two-year project, set to kick off June 1, has been made possible through state grant funding and corporate cost share dollars totaling $629,728. In an opportunity identified by Kevin King, director of Industry Partnerships at OHIO, Ali, aided by Richard Walker, site technology manager at MIBA Bearings US, and Joe Gillespie, senior simulation engineer at MIBA Bearings US, created a winning proposal and business justification model to secure a grant totaling $314,864 from the Ohio Development Services Agency's Advanced Manufacturing Program.

”This project represents a great opportunity to use Ohio University’s engineering expertise for the benefit the national manufacturing industry,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “We look forward to partnering with the state of Ohio, MIBA Bearings, MIBA Sintering Group, Universal Technology Corporation and Ariel Corporation to test this new technology, learn from each other and continue to develop industry-standard best practices for all involved.”

Hydrodynamic bearings, frequently used in high-load, high-speed or high-precision applications, are prevalent across the manufacturing industry and are typically manufactured through a series of machining processes. OHIO, as lead of the project, will execute the exploration and advancement of hydrodynamic bearing manufacturing through additive manufacturing/3D printing — a layering process that will allow for the creation of intricate features difficult to do through machining — and sintering — the solidification of a powder material through heating — technologies to reduce production costs.

To implement this project OHIO will design and build an advanced system of equipment, or testing rig, to test bearings at an accelerated operating rate to determine performance and service life.

“With the specs we are targeting, this test rig will be one of a kind in the world,” Ali said.

The testing rig will operate on the OHIO Athens campus with the help of a designated OHIO project team: Dr. Jay Wilhelm, co-principal investigator and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Khairul Alam, co-principal investigator and professor of mechanical engineering, and doctoral candidate students Collier Fais and Sean Jenson.

MIBA Bearings US LLC, with extensive manufacturing experience, will work with OHIO to help design test bearings to be manufactured by MIBA Sintering Group and Universal Technology Corporation using proposed advanced processes. Performance data from testing will be reviewed from manufacturing expectations by OHIO and the MIBA companies, and from a customer standpoint by Ariel Corporation.

The group will provide periodic reports on progress and demonstrations to the Ohio Development Service Agency as appropriate throughout the two-year project.

According the Development Service Agency, the purpose of the Advanced Manufacturing Program is to increase the competitiveness of Ohio's manufacturers by supporting the adoption, implementation and extension of advanced manufacturing technologies. This is the first grant of this type to be awarded to OHIO. A cost share matching grant funds is being applied to the project by the industrial partners involved in the project.