Areas of Research
Advanced Manufacturing

Innovating manufacturing processes, equipment, controls, predictive capabilities, and connectivity for enhanced productivity, precision, and sustainability

Manufacturing has the largest economic multiplier effect of all industries, integrating both ideas and technologies across multiple disciplines, and aiming for the creation of processes and systems with a lasting positive environmental and societal impact.

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Research Area Subtopics

In-house Designed Open-architecture Directed Energy Deposition System (J. Cao and K. Ehmann)
In-house designed open-architecture directed energy
deposition system. (J. Cao, K. Ehmann)

Additive Manufacturing Processes and Systems

AM allows the creation of products with geometries and material systems that are not possible by other processes. We invent, improve, and characterize AM processes from the micro- to the macro-scale to create novel material architectures and enhance product performance. We further hybridize AM processes to advance the frontiers of processability and controllability.

Flexible Dieless Forming – Double-sided Incremental Forming process schematic and sample formed parts (J. Cao)
Flexible dieless forming – double-sided incremental
Forming process schematic and sample formed parts.
(J. Cao)

Deformation-based manufacturing processes and systems

Deformation processing is the backbone of mass production. We are extending its applicability to benefit both high-volume production, such as forming of metal alloys and polymer-based composites, and one of a kind customized or low-volume products via incremental forming without using geometry-specific tooling. To this end, we develop innovative processes and machine systems.

Single Point Diamond Turning for Advanced Optical Surfaces (e.g., Structural Coloration and Freefrom Flat Lens) (P. Guo)
Single point diamond turning for advanced optical
surfaces (e.g., structural coloration and freefrom flat).
(P. Guo)

Micro/nano and Precision Manufacturing

Processes under this heading are seen by many as the key technologies of the century. We are pushing the limits of precision and resolution to enable scalable micro/nano manufacturing processes through new system design and process innovation (e.g., micro/nano machining, nano-fabrication, micro-forming and laser processing). Applications include surface texturing, metamaterials, plasmonic nano photonics, and soft robotics.

Physics-based data-driven design and control of additive
manufacturing process. (J. Cao, W. Chen, and
K. Ehmann)

Physics-based Data-driven Process Design and Control

To meet the stringent and ever-increasing demands on performance and productivity, model-based manufacturing needs to supersede conventional approaches. We establish solid understanding of process mechanics and use numerical simulations to determine, a priori, process parameters considering material and process uncertainties. We also link this understanding with synthetic and prior physical data and in situ process sensing to create robust process control solutions.

Human Digital Twin for Smart Fatigue Sensing in Industry 4.0 (P. Guo and J. Cao)
Human digital twin for smart fatigue sensing in industry
4.0. (P. Guo, J. Cao)

Digital Twins in the Connected World

Digital twins (virtual models) are the prerequisites for assessing and controlling all activities in a manufacturing system. We build and integrate digital twins of physical manufacturing systems to enable the realization of cyber-physical systems for sustainable manufacturing through the use of physical models and advanced AI analytics. We improve our understanding of ergonomics in different manufacturing environments by providing innovative wearable sensors.

ME Faculty

Photo of Jian Cao

Jian Cao

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

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

Email Jian Cao

Photo of Wei Chen

Wei Chen

Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Wilson-Cook Professor in Engineering Design

Email Wei Chen

Photo of J. Edward Colgate

J. Edward Colgate

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Email J. Edward Colgate

Photo of Kornel Ehmann

Kornel Ehmann

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Ping Guo

Ping Guo

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Sridhar Krishnaswamy

Sridhar Krishnaswamy

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Director of Center for Smart Structures and Materials

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Photo of Wing Liu

Wing Liu

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Materials Science and Engineering

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Photo of Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Director, Center for Robotics and Biosystems

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Photo of K.-C Kenneth Park

K.-C Kenneth Park

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Michael Rubenstein

Michael Rubenstein

Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Cheng Sun

Cheng Sun

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Ryan Truby

Ryan Truby

Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Gregory Wagner

Gregory Wagner

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Bette and Neison Harris Chair in Teaching Excellence

Director of Graduate Studies for Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Q. Jane Wang

Q. Jane Wang

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Executive Director, Center for Surface Engineering and Tribology

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Courtesy Faculty

Photo of Yip-Wah Chung

Yip-Wah Chung

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

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Photo of Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

Associate Director, Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience

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Photo of Julio Ottino

Julio Ottino

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

Distinguished Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor


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Photo of Aaron Packman

Aaron Packman

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering

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Photo of John Rogers

John Rogers

Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Neurological Surgery (and by courtesy Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry and Dermatology)

Director, Querrey Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics

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Photo of Petia Vlahovska

Petia Vlahovska

Professor of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics (by courtesy) Mechanical Engineering

Email Petia Vlahovska