UNI Metal Casting and Foundry 4.0 Centers pave the way for the future of manufacturing

As we celebrate Manufacturing Month this October, we also celebrate the applied research and solutions coming out of the University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Center and Foundry 4.0 Center. The centers have experienced staff in the casting industry and also rely on UNI students to support many applied research and innovative projects. 

On the metal casting side, current research and development includes material characterization for ceramic 3D printing and the use of advanced sensors to test the temperature, humidity, and pressure of the curation in binders and sand grains. On the Industry 4.0 side, staff and students are working to develop a few projects, including new domestic printing materials that have reduced the cost of 3D sand printing by more than 80 percent, more environmentally friendly bio-based binders and non-flammable printer cleaning fluid. The centers also do innovative work with sensor and automation technologies and have been named a Smart Manufacturing Institute. 

Metal Casting Center

"Students engaged with both centers work directly with the casting industry to solve current industrial challenges," said Jerry Thiel, the director of both centers. "Students gain valuable experience and confidence in working with advanced technologies including robotics, sensors, automation and other Industry 4.0 techniques. After graduation, they enter the workforce with an increased enthusiasm for technology and confidence in their abilities. It is a great example of experiential learning and industrial engagement."

The centers have recently launched a project for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), in collaboration with Youngstown State University (YSU) and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), to increase the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies in small and medium casting companies in the supply chain. The UNI Center for Business Growth & Innovation also plays an important role on the business side of this project, helping companies assess the business case for adopting Industry 4.0 technologies. This ground-breaking project launched in April 2022 and will shape the future of Industry 4.0 for the Department of Defense.