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Brad Petersen
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1066 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 244-6376
bradp@illinois.edu

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Meg Dickinson
Communications Specialist
1068 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 300-6664
megd@illinois.edu

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Jain and collaborators win $6.3 million grant

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By Brad Petersen, ECE Illinois
September 26, 2007

  • Prof. Kanti Jain has been awarded a $6.3 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant for their proposal "Direct Digital Manufacturing of Airfoils."
  • Jain and his research team plan to develop a new direct digital manufacturing technology known as Large Area Maskless Photopolymerization to manufacture airfoils, a component in high performance engines.
  • Jain said LAMP improves significantly upon on the current process which is expensive, tedious, and slow, by using many laser light beams which can be individually controlled to provide the desired pattern exposure.

Kanti  Jain
Kanti Jain

ECE Professor Kanti Jain and his collaborators have been awarded a $6.3 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant for their proposal “Direct Digital Manufacturing of Airfoils.” The team intends to develop a new direct digital manufacturing technology known as Large Area Maskless Photopolymerization (LAMP) to manufacture airfoils, a key component of high-performance engines for airplanes, tanks, and other systems.

“We want to come up with new ways to make critical parts for products the military buys, like advanced fighter jets,” Jain said. “These airfoils are part of demanding engines and have very unconventional shapes.”

LAMP combines the layered manufacturing of complex three-dimensional objects by solid freeform fabrication (SFF) with the fine-feature resolution and high throughput of massively parallel scanning maskless lithography to speed up the manufacturing process while increasing feature definition. LAMP promises an unprecedented ability to rapidly manufacture parts that have macroscale exterior dimensions and microscale interior features.

Jain said LAMP improves significantly upon on the current process which is expensive, tedious, and slow, by using many laser light beams which can be individually controlled to provide the desired pattern exposure. “If we had to use one laser beam, we would have to scan thousands of times per layer. Instead, we have thousands of beams,” Jain explained.

The new technique could be useful in manufacturing much more than airfoils, Jain said. “Lots of parts could be made using this technology—complex gears, motor components, and objects in electronic and medical systems currently made by molding. The more complex the part, the more applicable this technology is.”

The collaborators in the team are professors Suman Das and John Halloran of the University of Michigan, Jain, Honeywell Aerospace, and Anvik Corporation. Their proposal was submitted in response to DARPA’s solicitation on “Disruptive Manufacturing Technologies.” Das will lead the interdisciplinary, university-industry group. Two ECE students and a post-doctoral researcher will also be involved in the four-year project.

DARPA is the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). It manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects for the DoD, and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions, according to its Web site.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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