$148M Lightweight Materials Institute Opens in Corktown


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The $148-million American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute opened Thursday in Detroit's Corktown, in the former home of Mexican Industries, which made plastic moldings for the auto industry until filing for bankruptcy in 2001.

Called LIFT (Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow), the facility's programming will focus on developing new technologies to cast, heat treat, form/shape, join, and coat such lightweight metals as aluminum, magnesium, titanium, and advanced high-strength steel alloys.

"Taking weight out of vehicles that move people and goods and carry out military missions is a national imperative, because as we succeed, we will be saving energy, saving money, and creating jobs," says Lawrence Brown, the institute's executive director.

The Detroit-based institute is one of five created by the U.S. government to maintain America's manufacturing leadership. Known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, each institute has a particular focus. While LIFT accelerates technologies using lightweight metals, others will advance technologies in power generation, digital manufacturing, additive manufacturing, photonics, and advanced composites.

Alan Taub, the institute's CTO, says LIFT is an ideal public/private partnership, and notes the institute will set priorities based on input from industry partners and governmental agencies.

"We will create collaborations to focus on the opportunities manufacturing companies identify to take breakthroughs from the best research institutions around the country and commercialize them as certified, production-level processes," Taub says. "Our work will cross-fertilize developments in several industries — including defense and commercial applications in aerospace, automotive, marine, and railroad."

For more information about the 100,000-square-foot center, visit lift.technology.com.

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