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Partnerships help university, industry make magic

Ma2JIC logoIt’s a question that institutes of higher learning often face: what do we gain from the discoveries generated by universities? What’s the return on investment? At The Ohio State University, one answer comes in the form of the Manufacturing and Materials Joining Innovation Center (Ma2JIC).

“Our mission is to establish a collaborative research environment between universities and industrial partners that promotes the development and application of fundamental knowledge in the areas of materials joining and manufacturing, and provides a platform for the education of the next generation of scientist and engineers,” said Antonio Jose Ramirez, professor of welding engineering and director of Ma2JIC.

Ohio State provides leadership to the initiative, which also features contributions from the Colorado School of Mines, Lehigh University, and the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Ma2JIC has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as an Industry and University Cooperative Research Center since 2010.

Currently, there are 41 external members participating in Ma2JIC, including Lincoln Electric, Rolls Royce, and Honda. In a recent report, members noted that they had saved more than $4 million in research expenditures by being involved with the center.

Projects at Ma2JIC fall under four main categories: material performance; modeling; process innovation, development, and additive manufacturing; and weldability testing and evaluation. The partnerships yield industrial innovation, saving manufacturers money and making systems safer at the same time.

Then-graduate student Tyler Borchers and Associate Professor Wei Zhang, both of Ohio State’s welding engineering program, have worked with project sponsor Honda on examining welding methods for joining high-strength aluminum alloys. They studied the susceptibility of welding joints of aluminum alloys to corrosion, particularly stress cracking. This research resulted in a fundamental understanding of the stress cracking phenomena.

This research resulted in a patent application for an innovative precision additive dressing that mitigates corrosion of welded joints in instances of stress cracking. As a result of this research, Honda has information on why the stress phenomena occurred and how to countermeasure it through a variety of methods. This development will result in more stable, long lasting welds that are essential to broad application of high-strength aluminum alloys in fuel efficient vehicles.

Expanding on that, Boian Alexandrov, a research associate professor in welding engineering, has led the development of a test method for resistance to environmentally assisted hydrogen stress cracking in welds. This research addresses catastrophic weld failures in the oil and gas industry that cost billions of dollars. By performing testing, engineers are able to identify potential failures before the pieces are put into use, saving money and time and making the industry safer. Currently Shell, Stress Engineering, and TechnipFMC are industry advisory board mentors on this project. The method is currently being standardized with NACE International, the worldwide corrosion authority.

Ma2JIC has academic impact, too. Since 2011, Ohio State has graduated 25 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Ten of those graduates have gone on to be employed by a one of the center’s industrial partners, though many choose to continue their educations. The NSF recently provided supplemental funding for the current fiscal year to support two veterans and two undergraduate students who will partake in research activities.

Ma2JIC also supports a high school internship program that pairs students from central Ohio schools with graduate student mentors. High school students assist with research on Ma2JIC projects and present their research much like a scholar would at a conference.

“We are very proud that many of these students have gone on to study STEM in college, and some have even joined the welding engineering program at Ohio State,” said Ramirez.

Ohio State has 16 ongoing projects. Throughout its partner schools, the center supports a total of 23 projects and has completed 14.