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 and flexible rapid forming. Current research on flexible dieless forming, micro-forming, laser processes for ablation and additive has direct impacts on energy-efficient manufacturing, surface engineering and rapid prototyping. She has published nearly 300 technical articles, including over 130 journal articles, over 10 book chapters, and 10 patents. She has given over 120 invited talks. 

Significant Recognition

  • 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. Smith, J. Cao, J. and Liu, W. K. (2016) “Computational Challenges and Future Research Directions in Additive Manufacturing,” IACM Expression, 38, 2-5.
    2. 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
    3. Smith, J., Liu, W.K. and Cao, J. (2015) “A General Anisotropic Yield Criterion for Pressure-dependent Materials”, to appear Int. J. Plasticity, 10.1016/j.ijplas.2015.08.009. 
    4. 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.
    5. Ng, M.K., Li, L.Y., Fan, Z.Y., Gao, R.X., Smith, E.S. III, Ehmann, K.F. and Cao, J. (2015) “Joining sheet metals by electrically-assisted roll bonding”, Annuals of CIRP, Vol. 65(1), pp. 273-276, doi:10.1016/j.cirp.2015.04.131.
    6. Saxena, I., Ehmann, K. and Cao, J. (2015) “High Throughput Microfabrication using Laser Induced Plasma in Saline Aqueous Medium”, J. Materials Processing Technology, Vol. 217, March, pp. 77–87, doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2014.10.018.
    7. Wang, X., Knapp, P., Vaynman, S., Graham, M.E., Cao, J., Ulmer, M.P. (2014) ‘Experimental study and analytical model of deformation of magnetostrictive films as applied to mirrors for X-ray space telescopes”, Applied Optics, Vol. 53(27), pp.6256-6267, dx.doi.org/10.1364/AO.53.006256.
    8. Ling, T.D., Liu, P., Xiong, S., Grzina, D., Cao, J., Wang, Q. J., Xia, Z. C. and Talwar, R. (2013) “Surface Texturing of Drill Bits for Adhesion Reduction and Tool Life Enhancement”, Tribology Letter, Vol. 52, pp.113-122, DOI 10.1007/s11249-013-0198-7.
    9. Magargee, J., Morestin, F., and Cao, J. (2013) “Characterization of Flow Stress for Commercially Pure Titanium Subjected to Electrically-Assisted Deformation”, ASME Journal of Engineering Materials and Technologies, Vol.135(4), doi:10.1115/1.4024394.
    10. Mitsuishi, M., Cao, J., Bártolo, P., Friedrich, D., Shih, A., Rajurkar, K., Sugita, N. and Harada, K. (2013) “Biomanufacturing”, Annuals of CIRP, Vol.62/2, pp.585-606, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cirp.2013.05.001.
    11. Malhotra, R., Saxena, I., Ehmann, K.F. and Cao, J. (2013) “Laser-induced Plasma Micro-machining (LIPMM) for Enhanced Productivity and Flexibility in Laser-based Micro-machining Processes”, Annuals of CIRP, Vol.62/1, 10.1016/j.cirp.2013.03.036.
    12. Lu, B., Chen, J., Ou, H. and Cao, J. (2013) “Feature-Based Tool Path Generation Approach for Incremental Sheet Forming Process”, Journal of Materials Processing Technology, Vol. 213(7), pp. 1221-1233, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2013.01.023.
    13. Cao, J. et al. (2013) Chapter 7: Implications: Societal Collective Outcomes, including Manufacturing, in Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society, Eds. Roco, M.C.; Bainbridge, W.; Tonn, B.; Whitesides, G., Springer, ISBN 978-3-319-02203-1.
    14. Malhotra, R., Xue, L, Belytschko, T., Cao, J. (2012) “Prediction and Analysis of Fracture in Single Point Incremental Forming using a Damage based Material Model”, Journal of Materials Processing Technology, Vol. 212, pp. 1573-1590. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2012.02.021.
    15. Fan, Z., Ng, M.K., Gao, R.X., Cao, J. and Smith, E.F. III (2012) “Real-Time Monitoring of Pressure Distribution in Microrolling through Embedded Capacitive Sensing”, Annuals of CIRP, Vol.61/1, 367–370, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cirp.2012.03.136.
    16. Cao, J. et al. (2008) “Characterization of Mechanical Behavior of Woven Fabrics: Experimental Methods and Benchmark Results”, Composite Part A-Applied Science and Manufacturing, Vol. 39 (6), 2008, 1037-1053.
    17. Peng, X.Q. and Cao, J. (2005) “A Continuum Mechanics Based Non-orthogonal Constitutive Model for Woven Composites”, Composites: Part A Applied Science and Manufacturing, Vol. 36(6), pp. 859-874. 


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).