UMass Amherst Engineer Receives $300,000 Grant from U.S. Office of Naval Research

AMHERST, Mass. - David Kazmer, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Massachusetts, was selected as an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator, a three-year, $300,000 award.

The award will support Kazmer''s ongoing research on an innovative process for injection molding, used to make thermal plastics and composite parts. "Basically what I''m trying to do is improve the process of injection molding by preheating the surface of the mold," Kazmer said. Preheating "keeps the polymer resin warm during injection."

Such a process is important for several reasons, Kazmer said. "It allows you to make parts that could not be made before - larger parts that weigh less," he notes. "The quality of the parts is higher. By keeping the surface [of the injection mold] warm, you increase the aesthetics and structural integrity - the parts will be stronger. And finally, you can run the mold coolant at lower temperatures while still keeping the surface hot - that reduces processing costs by 30 percent."

That''s good news both for industry and consumers. Kazmer''s injection molding process could impact industries as far-ranging as automotive - leading to stronger door panels and bumpers - to the optical industry and the possibility of lighter eyeglass lenses. The process is also applicable to optical media such as CD ROMs and DVDs, even the computer chassis - "anything that''s plastic," Kazmer said, "but these are the ones we''ll target right out of the gate."

The Naval award will be used, in part, to purchase equipment for sensoring and measuring and to develop a heating system: "We''ll have to custom design and develop the actual [heating system] to make this work, and that will take at least a year," Kazmer said. "At the end of three years, we''ll know if this is feasible, then we''ll look at the translation to industrial application."

Industries, however, are clearly used to the time it takes to bring such an idea to fruition. A polymer mold invention of Kazmer''s, now trademarked Dynamic Feed by Dynisco in Sharon, Mass., took six years to become commercialized, and corporations such as GE Plastics, Bayer and AMP have already expressed an interest in Kazmer''s current injection mold research.

Kazmer said that manufacturing processes are too often viewed as being static: "We assume there''s nothing we can change," he notes. "My long-term view is that I hope to create a philosophy of changing manufacturing processes - we can have dramatic improvements in reducing costs."

Since Kazmer joined the University in 1995, he''s also been the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Department of Energy Innovative Industrial Process award, the College Service award, and a Lilly Teaching Fellowship.