The new Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced in early January, will focus on advancing the composites industry by lowering costs and supporting the widespread use of composites. One branch of IACMI is in Detroit, established through a $70 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. This center will allow the auto industry – including smaller companies – to test and develop the equipment needed to process new materials for vehicles.
Composites Manufacturing Interviews spoke with Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president of automotive at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., an investor and supporter of IACMI. Here, he relays his thoughts on IACMI’s potential in Detroit.
What specific IACMI projects will take place in Michigan?
IACMI is at the beginning phase of organization and still negotiating its Cooperative Agreement with the DOE. It cannot begin operations until that agreement is in place, but Michigan’s focus will be vehicle-related projects.
What unique perspectives will the Michigan team be able to bring to the table for IACMI’s research?
Michigan is the center of the North American automotive sector. There are 375 research and development centers located in the state and more than 75 percent of automotive research and development dollars spent in North America are spent in Michigan. Michigan is a state that excels in making things and is well-versed in the use of composites. In working with IACMI, companies have the opportunity to increase the composite content in automotive applications by improving the materials, handling and machining properties so higher-volume and more varied uses are achievable.
How does the grant give smaller companies access to these material technologies in ways they could not previously?
Smaller companies will be able to leverage IACMI’s facilities and equipment to undertake R&D work that would normally be too expensive for their company’s size.
What do you think are the best ways for different players in the industry to support the automotive branch of the IACMI? The IACMI as a whole?
Companies that are in the automotive industry and have an interest in composite materials – OEM’s, suppliers or tooling companies – are encouraged to become involved in IACMI, and there are many ways to do that. IACMI’s tiered membership levels allow any organization the ability to participate in IACMI. The Engage tab on IACMI.org highlights how companies can become involved.