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Purdue's New Interdisciplinary Labs Bolster U.S. Manufacturing

The labs aim to further manufacturing research, funding and industry collaboration.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – This particular National Manufacturing Day — Oct. 6, 2023 — has special significance at Purdue University, as it marks the founding of its groundbreaking Manufacturing and Materials Research Laboratories (MMRL).

At the foundation, MMRL brings together 10 faculty, especially young and emerging national leaders, from different engineering disciplines — including the schools of industrial, materials, mechanical and nuclear engineering to further manufacturing research, funding and industry collaboration. More disciplines will follow. 

“MMRL will be an ‘umbrella’ organization with experimental facilities for physical domain manufacturing,” said Arvind Raman, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering and Robert V. Adams Professor in Mechanical Engineering. “This will allow us to have a stronger outward projection to industry partners and federal agencies and promote collaborations leading to federal funding, industry linkups and workforce development.”

MMRL will have a robust educational and workforce development component, helping to create interdisciplinary, manufacturing-related professional master’s degrees, executive education programs, and undergraduate minors and certificates. It aims to increase Purdue’s intellectual property portfolio around manufacturing science and engineering, industrial innovations and accelerate technology commercialization.

Additionally, the cutting-edge collaborative working environment is expected to attract top talent — faculty, staff, graduate students and postdocs — to the College of Engineering.

“Manufacturing and operations, making and moving, are fundamental to the commerce and security of America,” said Ajay Malshe, inaugural director of MMRL and the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “For Purdue and the state of Indiana, situated geographically at the crossroads of America, establishing advanced infrastructure like MMRL in physical manufacturing to complement digital as well as sustainable manufacturing is mission-critical for leading the nation and building coalitions. This builds upon Purdue’s rich tradition in manufacturing innovations and its translation to the real world, and Indiana has one of the highest densities of manufacturing in the union.”

National Manufacturing Day is celebrated on the first Friday of every October to showcase the manufacturing sector and its career opportunities to students, parents and the public. The annual event was first launched by the Manufacturing USA Institutes, which were established in 2014. The institutes house industry, academia and federal partners in a bid to strengthen U.S. manufacturing resilience and competitiveness and create a strong national manufacturing R&D base.

MMRL, with its focus on manufacturing research and experimentation, represents one of the first offshoots of Purdue’s eXcellence in Manufacturing and Operations (XMO) initiative. XMO is rooted in Purdue’s historic commitment to innovative manufacturing. Led by the College of Engineering, XMO is a collaboration between the college and the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, the College of Agriculture and the College of Science.

Malshe co-chairs XMO with Stephan Biller, the Harold T. Amrine Distinguished Professor in the Purdue School of Industrial Engineering, and Purdue’s Daniels School of Business. Biller cited work in the digital manufacturing underway at the Dauch Center for the Management of Manufacturing Enterprises, in which he serves as director, as the type of efforts that complement the work MMRL will deliver.

“At the Dauch Center, we are focusing on the digital transformation of manufacturing enterprises and their supply chains and the transition from internal combustion engines to EVs working with the Indiana State commission,” Biller said. “Along with 60 graduate and undergraduate students, executing on company-supported projects, we are dedicated to innovate, educate and serve the manufactures of the state of Indiana and the nation.”

Purdue University is dedicated to leading a U.S. manufacturing and operations resurgence and building resilience through its pioneering strides and great leaps forward in sectors like semiconductors, aerospace, defense, transportation, agriculture and food biomanufacturing, and health care.

XMO and MMRL are vital components of this renaissance in U.S. manufacturing, logistics and supply chains — part of the nation’s fresh commitment to revitalizing its industrial legacy, by linking physical, digital and sustainable manufacturing into a resilient, sustainable ecosystem that ensures jobs and national security.

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