Center for Manufacturing Research

Mission Statement

  • To advance scientific and engineering knowledge in manufacturing.
  • To support the instructional program in those areas related to manufacturing.

Goals and Objectives

  • Initiate and expand research in manufacturing-related areas.
  • Expand interactions with Tennessee manufacturers.
  • Increase local, state, national and international recognition of the Manufacturing Research Center and, by association, Tennessee Technological University.
  • Obtain increasing amounts of extramural funding every fiscal year.
  • Continue to produce high-quality graduate and undergraduate students through participation in center research projects.


The Center for Manufacturing Research and Technology Utilization was created to solve manufacturing problems and to provide a medium for technology transfer, while enhanc- ing the educations of students in manufacturing-related disciplines. The center fulfills these missions by putting students and their faculty advisors to work on manufacturing problems faced by real Tennessee manufacturers. In the center's first 10 years, few counties across the state have not felt the impact of its efforts.

Major Accomplishments

Research Activities The center has completed around 650 research projects, both large and small, during its first 10 years, attracting millions in external funding for manufacturing-related projects. This figure includes more than 200 major research projects and over 400 testing or minor projects. This figure also includes projects completed through the University of Tennes- see -- Center for Industrial Services (UT-CIS). Using the statewide network of UT-CIS, the Manufacturing Research Center has been able to interact with a wider audience than it would have using only its own resources. As a result, the center has worked with cornpa- nies in big and little towns all across the state, completing more than 160 projects for Tennessee's small manufacturers through UT-CIS projects alone.

The center and the university achieved national research recognition through results achieved in the center's Fan Research Laboratory (now known as the Acoustics/Noise Control Lab). It was there that testing methods were developed which later became the standard for other fan research tests sponsored by the Navy. As a result, engineers from across the United States came to Tennessee Tech in 1988-89 to learn about the Navy's exacting test standards.

Assisting Textron Aerostructures (formerly Avco Aerostructures) with the development of Smart Skins technology and composite manufacturing techniques has been a major accomplishment for both organizations. These development activities helped Textron to meet the needs of its clients to produce safer, smarter aircraft capable of diagnosing structural damage and alerting pilots before a failure occurs. Eventually this type of "Smart" technology may be useful in monitoring the structural integrity of buildings in earthquake-prone areas or to give early warning to authorities when a bridge is in danger of collapsing.

This map of Tennessee denotes locations of manufacturers who used Manufacturing Research Center services between 1983 and 1995.
Engineering and business faculty collaborated on a project funded through Auburn University's MOT (Management of Technology) Competitive Grants Program. The project was an opportunity for industrial managers to work directly with faculty and students to develop case studies that will help business and engineering students learn about MOT issues. Tech was one of only 10 U.S. universities to receive the grant. Center faculty associates Dale Wilson (Mechanical Engineering) and John Burnham (Decision Sciences) were the principal investigators, but a large group of faculty and students from both Tennessee Tech colleges were involved in the project.

Educational Outreach

During its first five years alone, the center involved more than 2,000 students in manufac- turing-related instruction and research as a result of its presence on campus. Through funding graduate student researchers, the center has helped 185 students achieve their graduate degrees during its first 10 years. Out of this number, 28 students received their doctorates in engineering. Also, more than 300 students working on their undergraduate degrees have received center support in exchange for their participation in its activities.

The Manufacturing Research Center also helped the College of Engineering obtain the donation of approximately 45 high-tech, Sun Microsystems SparcStation 1 computers for use in the undergraduate engineering curriculum in 1988. Today the college owns about 6O Sun SparcStations, most of which are being used in the undergraduate curriculum to familiarize students with Computer-Aided Design or Manufacturing (CAD/CAM). The center owns six workstations which are dedicated solely to graduate research.

The center has had an additional educational impact through its conference and seminar activities. In total, the Manufacturing Research Center has hosted approximately 130 seminars, workshops, conferences, short courses and satellite conferences during its first 10 years, including six that were major national, international or regional conferences.


The Center for Manufacturing Research and Technology Utilization has had a significant and beneficial impact on state manufacturing and manufacturing education in its first decade. The comments received by the center from its annual customer surveys attest to the fact that of the more than 200 customers it has served, the vast majority have been very satisfied. Considering the substantial positive impact the center has had on the State of Tennessee, the actual return on its investment is certainly well on the positive side.