By Mike Gust
The 2014 CCEFP Fluid Power Innovation and Research Conference (FPIRC14) was held last week at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. By all accounts it was a huge success! Attendance was nearly double from previous annual meetings with almost two hundred participants…half of which were from industry. This annual three-day event has established itself as the must-attend conference for fluid power research in America. Twenty-eight formal research project updates were presented during the day program and then shown again at an informal poster show in the evening. The poster show is viewed by industry as a conference highlight, as it gives them an excellent opportunity to meet one-on-one with the graduate students conducting the research. There’s always a high degree of excitement in the room and a buzz from these conversations. Many of these students will eventually end up working at one of these industry attendees’ company.
Besides the research updates, this year’s program included a tour of Vanderbilt’s impressive Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability (LASIR). While there, a distinguished panel of academics, government agencies and industry was held. Discussion topics included the importance of public-private partnerships in innovation; ways to accelerate research into the marketplace; and the nation’s need for an educated domestic workforce. Panel participants included:
- Nicholas Zeppos, Chancellor, Vanderbilt University
- Mark Johnson, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Office, U.S. Department of Energy
- Thom Mason, Director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Ken Gray, Global Product Manager, Large Hydraulic Excavators, Caterpillar Inc.
- Philippe Fauchet, Dean of Engineering, Vanderbilt University (moderator)
Another highlight of the conference was an optional trip to nearby Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL). Tours of the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF), National Transportation Research Center (NTRC) and Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) were also arranged. The 3D printing technology demonstrations provided by the MDF facility were a huge hit with industry. This technology has taken tremendous strides in the past few years and appears now to be on the verge of being commercially viable. Some examples are shown below.
Car printed out in only a few days using a reinforced polymer that is not only extremely lightweight but provides excellent strength.
[one_half last=”no”]3D printing machining cell[/one_half]
Robotic underwater fluid powered manipulator in which the fluid passages are routed internally.
Compact Integrated Heat Exchanger and cutaway of robotic joint showing internal fluid passages–the only way to make such designs is with 3D printing.
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