- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - Researchers at Purdue University Calumet - a campus that’s near northwestern Indiana’s massive steel mills - have been chosen to lead a national consortium that will seek ways to make American steelmaking more advanced and efficient.

The Hammond school’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation won a $480,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology as seed money for the push.

That money will enable a university research lab led by mechanical engineering professor Chenn Zhou to launch the industry-guided effort. Her lab uses virtual reality technology to simulate conditions engineers cannot see firsthand, such as a blast furnace’s interior.

“This will be great, and mean more opportunities for our students and faculty. It’s a national center right here in northwest Indiana that should have a big impact regionally,” Zhou told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1vjV3Sg ).


Fourteen companies and groups, including steelmakers ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, have signed on as sponsors. They will financially support the consortium, called the Advanced Simulation and Visualization for Steel Optimization Consortium, over the long term.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, the Association for Iron and Steel Technology and industry suppliers are also supporting the consortium.

The Purdue Calumet grant was one of 19 technology grants totaling $9 million recently awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The institute’s director, Patrick Gallagher, said those grants provide incentives for partnerships aimed at tackling technological issues facing a wide range of manufacturers.

Gallagher said those partnerships are working to “sustain a healthy, innovative advanced manufacturing sector - one that invents, demonstrates, prototypes and produces here, in the U.S.”

The new steel consortium will work on long-term, industry-wide technical solutions to allow steelmakers and suppliers to boost efficiency, reduce production costs and improve quality.

Steelmakers will choose what specific subjects the consortium will research.

Zhou said imported steel has captured 25 percent of the U.S. market, and the domestic industry faces challenges that include aging machinery, a skills gap and a lack of engagement with new technologies.

“It’s much better to work together than on individual needs,” she said. “This is the future.”

ArcelorMittal, U.S. Steel and other companies will identify research projects that would benefit the entire U.S. steel industry, which contributes $17.5 billion annually to the nation’s economy and is directly and indirectly responsible for 1 million jobs.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com