Jared Kosters

Many small- and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) are likely rejoicing over the recent launch of the Manufacturing and Polymer Portal — a new online platform that gives them affordable access to manufacturing simulation tools. Understanding a product’s performance has traditionally required using trial and error — a meticulous, time-consuming, and costly process. Larger manufacturers use computer modeling and simulation to avoid this process, but these tools are still largely out of reach for SMMs. For smaller manufacturers, the initial investment of hardware, expertise, and licenses is cost- prohibitive.

PolymerOhio teamed with the Ohio Supercomputer Center in 2006 to develop what is turning out to be an elegant solution for SMMs. The project was intended to increase the competitiveness of smaller polymer companies by providing advanced modeling and simulation tools as well as training on how to operate the resources and integrate them into day-to-day operations.  A 2010 award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership provided funding opportunities that enabled manufacturers to enter into new markets and create new products. The award allowed PolymerOhio to expand their prototype online platform, ultimately giving SMMs the capability to make predictions about manufacturing operations and products faster and cheaper than ever before.

After 3 years of developing the pilot project that focused on Ohio’s polymer industry, the Manufacturing and Polymer Portal now hosts an assortment of services, software, and integration tools that manufacturers of all types can access, enabling rapid engineering design and prototyping using an affordable pay-per-use model.

This online platform represents a huge success by demonstrating an “innovation infrastructure” that aligns with the goals of the Materials Genome Initiative, which aims to reduce the development time of advanced materials at only a fraction of the cost. Such an infrastructure supports the successful transfer of data, knowledge, and tools to give manufacturers the resources needed to reduce costs and accelerate product development. We here at Nexight are advocates of collaborative initiatives that meet these infrastructure goals through increased affordability and accessibility. For example, we are currently supporting ASM International’s Computational Materials Data Network (CMDN) that will give access to materials data and information to industrial members and research communities.

Thanks to the support of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, the Manufacturing and Polymer Portal is making it possible for SMMs to reap the benefits of modeling and simulation tools that large manufacturers have enjoyed for years. What was once a cost-prohibitive barrier is now becoming a reality for small manufacturers to grow their enterprises, compete in the manufacturing sector, and contribute to a healthy economy.