Faculty Directory
Jian Cao

Associate Vice President for Research

Cardiss Collins Professor of Mechanical Engineering and (by courtesy) Civil and Environmental Engineering

Director, Northwestern Initiative for Manufacturing Science and Innovation (NIMSI)


2145 Sheridan Road
Tech A213
Evanston, IL 60208-3109

847-467-1032Email Jian Cao


Advanced Manufacturing Processes Laboratory


Mechanical Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering


Theoretical and Applied Mechanics Graduate Program

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Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA

B.S. Materials Science and Engineering & Automatic Control, Shanghai JiaoTong University, Shanghai, China

Research Interests

Prof. Cao’s major research interests include innovative manufacturing processes and systems, particularly in the area of deformation-based processes and laser processes. Her work has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of wrinkling in sheet forming and the effects of material microstructure and material architecture on forming behavior of metals and woven composites. Her research has integrated analytical and numerical simulation methods, control and sensors, design methodologies to advance manufacturing processes. Her research group has designed unique manufacturing equipment for microforming, flexible rapid forming, and additive manufacturing. Current research on flexible dieless forming, micro-forming, laser processes for ablation and additive, and composites forming has direct impacts on energy-efficient manufacturing, surface engineering and rapid prototyping. She has published over 300 technical articles, including more than 150 journal articles, 10 book chapters, and 12 patents. She has given over 120 invited talks. 

Significant Recognition

  • Frederick W. Taylor Research Medal, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2016
  • Fellow, The International Academy for Production Engineering (CIRP), 2014
  • STLE Best Paper Award, 2014
  • ISFA Best Application Paper Award at the ISFA 2014
  • Distinguished Service Award, ASME Manufacturing Engineering Division, 2013
  • ASME Blackall Machine Tool and Gage Award, 2012
  • ASME Dedicated Service Award, 2011
  • Fellow, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2010
  • Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2007
  • Best Poster Award, ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference, 2008
  • Young Investigator Award, American Society of Mechanical Engineers/Applied Mechanics, 2006
  • Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2002
  • Outstanding Young Investigator Award, Japan-US Flexible Automation, 2002
  • Young Chinese Leader, Dragon Foundation, Hong Kong, 2002
  • Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, International Society of Automotive Engineers, 1999
  • CAREER Award, National Science Foundation 1997-2001
  • ALCOA Foundation award 1997

Significant Professional Service

  • Editor, ASME Journal of Micro- and Nano-Manufacturing, 2012–2017
  • Secretary, STC-F, The International Academy for Production Engineering (CIRP), 2011-2013
  • Past President of NAMRI/SME (North American Manufacturing Research Institution of SME)
  • Past Chair of the Manufacturing Engineering Division of ASME
  • Associate Editor, ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics, 2005-2011
  • Associate Editor, ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, 2003-2010
  • Guest editor, ASME Journal of Engineering Materials and Technology, October, 2001

Selected Publications

    1. Ng, M.K., Saxena, I., Ehmann, K.F. and Cao, J. (2016) “Improving surface hydrophobic performance by micro-rolling based-texturing”, J. of Micro- and Nano-manufacturing, Vol. 4, 031001 (8 pages), DOI: 10.1115/1.4033680.
    2. Moser, N., Zhang, Z.X., Ren, H., Zhang, H., Shi, Y., Ndip-Agbor, E. E., Lu, B., Chen, J., Ehmann, K. and Cao, J. (2016) “Effective Forming Strategy for Double-Sided Incremental Forming Considering In-plane Curvature and Tool Direction”, Annuals of CIRP, Vol. 66 (1), 10.1016/j.cirp.2016.04.131.
    3. Wang, X., You, Y., Liu, T.C., Liu, C., Ulmer, M. and Cao, J. (2016) “Deformation of rectangular thin glass plate coated with magnetostrictive material”, Smart Materials and Structures, Vol. 25(8), 085038, http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0964-1726/25/8/085038.
    4. Wang, X.W., Xu, J., Jiang, Z.L., Zhu, W.L., Shan, D.B., Guo, B. and Cao, J. (2016) “Size Effects on Flow Stress Behavior during Electrically-assisted Micro-tension in a Magnesium Alloy AZ31”, Materials Science and Engineering: A, Vol. 659, pp. 215-224, 10.1016/j.msea.2016.02.064.
    5. Smith, J., Xiong, W., Yan, W., Lin, S., Cheng, P., Kafka, O.L., Wagner, G.J., Cao, J., Liu, W.K. (2016) “Linking process, structure, property, and performance for metal-based additive manufacturing: computational approaches with experimental support”, Computational Mechanics, DOI: 10.1007/s00466-015-1240-4.
    6. Smith, J., Xiong, W., Cao, J. and Liu, W.K. (2016) “Thermodynamically Consistent Microstructure Prediction of Additively Manufactured Materials”, Computational mechanics, DOI:10.1007/s00466-015-1243-1, ISSN 0178-7675.Zeng, Q., Ehmann, K.F. and Cao, J. (2016) “Design of General Kinematrotropic Mechanisms”, Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, Vol. 38, pp.67-81, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rcim.2015.10.005.
    7. Saxena, I., Liu, J., Ehmann, K., Cao, J. (2015) "Periodic Surface Pattern Fabrication via Biprism Interference Micro-machining", Journal of Surface Topography: Metrology and Properties, Oct. 27, 2015, 045006, doi:10.1088/2051-672X/3/4/045006.
    8. Smith, J., Liu, W.K. and Cao, J. (2015) “A General Anisotropic Yield Criterion for Pressure-dependent Materials”, Int. J. Plasticity, Vol. 75, pp. 2 – 21, 10.1016/j.ijplas.2015.08.009. 
    9. Martinez-Prieto, N., Abecassis, M., Xu, J., Guo, P., Cao, J., Ehmann, K., (2015) "Feasibility of Fiber-deposition Control by Secondary Electric Fields in Near-Field Electrospinning." ASME Journal of Micro and Nano Manufacturing, Vol. 3(4), 041005, Sept. 22, 2015, doi: 10.1115/1.4031491.
    10. Zhang, Z., Ren, H., Xu, R., Moser, N., Smith, J., Ndip-Agbor, E., Malhotra, R., Xia, Z.C.,  Ehmann, K.F. and Cao, J. (2015) “A Mixed Double-Sided Incremental Forming Toolpath Strategy for Improved Geometric Accuracy”, ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, Vol.137(5), 051007 (7 pages), doi: 10.1115/1.4031092.


1.    Cao, J. and Kinsey, B., ‘Adaptive Method and Apparatus for Forming Tailor Welded Blank’, U.S. Patent No. 5,941,110, August 24, 1999.

2.    Cao, J., Lee, J.H. and Peshkin, M., ‘Real-time Draw-in Sensors and Methods of Fabrication’, U.S. Patent No.6,769,280, August 3, 2004.

3.    Cao, J., Swanson, A. and Davis, T. “Microforming Method and Apparatus,” US Patent No 8,408,039 B2, April 2, 2013.

4.    Smith, K. S., Woody, B., Ziegert, J. and Cao, J. ‘Deformation Machining – A Hybrid Process’, US Patent No. 8,545,142, Oct. 1, 2013.

5.    Roth, J. and Cao, J. “Electrical-assisted Double Side Incremental Forming and Processes Thereof”, US Patent No. 8,741,079 B2, June 3, 2014.

6.    Cao, J., Zhou, R. and Ehmann, K “Desktop deformation-based micro surface texturing system”, US Patent No. 8,905,748, December 9, 2014. 

In the Classroom

The Internet has made significant impacts on education. Vast information can now be much more easily obtained from the web compared to earlier years. To make the classroom experience unique, Professor Cao integrates recent developments in manufacturing research and development into the classroom, including review of the state-of-the-art new process innovations developed around the world, and invites external speakers from academia and industry to address the class. The integration of mechanics with manufacturing is also a must in her instruction. 

Professional Service

Prof. Cao has been active at the national and international stages. She served as the program director of the Materials Processing and Manufacturing (MPM) program at NSF from 2003 to 2005. During that short two-year period, under her leadership, the World Technology Evaluation Study on Micromanufacturing was conducted and co-sponsored by four government agencies and more than ten NSF programs. She co-initiated the joint-funding between NSF and DOE for her MPM program, which has been continued strongly after her departure. She is one of the main driving forces behind the well-received NSF workshops on CAREER development. Dr. Cao is active in professional societies, served as president of North American Manufacturing Research Institute of Society of Manufacturing Engineers and chair of ASME Manufacturing Engineering Division. Currently, she is the Vice-Chair of Scientific and Technical Committee on Forming of International Academy of Production Engineering (CIRP).