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MS&T Plenary Session to offer insights into materials strategies of 3M, Ford and GE

MS&T’11 Plenary Session: Credit: ACerS

A couple of weeks ago, Eileen described how the materials field is in something of a bind because of the economic slowdown and the potential funding cuts that Congress may have to follow through on. Her point wasn’t to spread gloom. It was just the opposite, noting that there will still be innovation, manufacturing, progress—and new opportunities—if you look in the right place.

We’ve written about this a couple of times, but the best place to “read the tea leaves,” decipher trends and find out who is actively seeking out collaborators is the Materials Science & Technology 2012 meeting occurring in Pittsburgh Oct. 7-11.

And, when it comes to looking at trends and overt decisions that are being made related to materials development, the best place to start is the Plenary Session. Year after year, the MS&T Plenary Session speakers have been a Who’s Who of high-impact personalities and business leaders, and one of best features of these recent annual meetings. Consider, for example, the sheer depth of knowledge and “connections” among those who have been on the dais in recent years: Subra Suresh (NSF Director), Carl Wieman (White House OSTP), Jeffrey Wadsworth (Battelle president and CEO), Al Romig Jr. (Lockheed Martin), Terry Michalske (Savannah River National Lab Director), Robert T. McGrath (Georgia Tech Research Institute Director) and Steven Koonin (then DOE Undersecretary of Science).

The planners of MS&T’12 this year again offer high-impact Plenary Session speakers with a sharp focus on strategies and successful innovation in the private sector, organized under the theme “Challenges for Materials-Intensive Industries: Consumer Products, Energy and Transportation.”

Specifically, there will be top R&D executives from 3M, Ford and GE who promise to address their company’s R&D priorities as well as workforce development needs. It looks like there will also be a lot of discussion about the impact computational methods are having on their industries.

So, here is the lineup of plenary speakers plus an overview of what they will cover in their 30-minute presentations. (Note, the presentations will be followed by a moderated group Q & A session):

Matthew J. Zaluzec
Senior Technical Leader and Manager of Global Materials & Manufacturing Research, Ford Motor Company’s Research & Innovation Center

“Computational materials and manufacturing: Delivering smarter, green, safe and quality material systems for automotive applications”

Lightweight materials are under development to deliver the weight savings for body structures, closures and chassis systems, while boosted engines are calling for more durable and higher temperature powertrain materials. Creating the next generation of advanced materials involves both fundamental first principles development and new levels of manufacturing process control. This level of computational materials engineering will deliver new materials, but also offers many opportunities to reengineer existing material systems.

Luana Iorio
Technology Leader, Manufacturing Technologies, GE Global Research

“Innovation through integration of product design, materials and manufacturing development”

The importance of integrating new product design practices, materials development and novel manufacturing processes has never been greater. Through the close coupling of design-materials-processing advances, new product capability and long-term competitive advantage can be achieved. The rapid growth in the capability of computational and digital tools greatly facilitates this design-material-manufacturing integration. In addition, computational tools can allow product designs and production to more readily adapt to changing customer needs. Disruptive materials and manufacturing technologies can however lead to increased complexity of the supply chain. Additive manufacturing techniques, for example will dramatically change today’s supply chain. Earlier and more collaborative partnerships become essential to ensure that entrepreneur-driven creative ideas can be matured and integrated into production.

Terry P. Smith
Technical Director, 3M Corporate Research Materials Laboratory

“Strategies for materials science innovation at 3M”

Industries increasingly face significant challenges developing technologically complex products for sophisticated and demanding customers. Some of the challenges include scarcity of key raw materials, uncertain commodity pricing, new competition and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Meeting these challenges requires a multidisciplinary approach involving basic materials, processing and economic considerations that play to the strength of the materials scientist. Successful commercialization campaigns have several common elements. At 3M, the solution inevitably involves the combination of the following: 1) combining multiple technology platforms, 2) aligning with markets that address important societal needs or trends and 3) effective communications between the R&D organization and the business units. A general framework that facilitates successful technology implementation and examples highlighting efforts in sustainability, composite materials and lighting will be presented.

And, typically, these speakers—who consider themselves part of the materials community—stick around and are usually very accommodating to those that want to explore particular topics, get names of possible contacts, etc.

There are many other reasons to attend MS&T’12, but Plenary Sessions are the icing on the cake. Seriously, where else are you going to get a materials view of the consumer products, energy and transportation industries from three Fortune 500 companies, all in one setting? Don’t miss this event.