by Joe King
Military vehicles and aircraft someday could be lighter, cheaper and more reliable, thanks to a collaboration between the NIU ROCK program and Woodward Governor.
A federal grant worth $1.6 million is funding the work.
The latest partnership brings to $19 million in federal funding received by NIU ROCK (Rapid Optimization Commercial Knowledge) over the last six years to help small- and medium-size programs in the region develop new processes and technologies and to become part of the Department of Defense supply chain.
The project with Woodward Governor will focus on developing improved manufacturing processes to create more affordable, longer-lasting and lighter-weight components for fuel systems used in aircraft turbine engines as well as industrial power generation turbines and engines.
“The goal is to cut initial costs by finding more efficient manufacturing techniques; decrease maintenance costs by making the parts more durable; and increase fuel efficiency by making the parts lighter,” said Richard Johnson, who leads the ROCK program for NIU.
Advances made as part of the project will not only benefit the military, he said, but ultimately could find their way into commercial products.
“We are very excited to be partnering on this important project with Woodward Governor, a company with an international reputation for excellence. We are excited to share all of the resources and skills that the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology can provide,” said Promod Vohra, dean of the college. “We are very grateful to Congressman Don Manzullo for making this project possible, and for all that he does on behalf of the manufacturing community in our region.”
ROCK has worked with a number of small- and medium-sized companies in the Rockford area that are developing new products for improved processing of precision small parts, as well as parts fabricated out of titanium or other advanced materials. These included laser cladding, micro-forming, micro-machining, laser-assisted machining of ceramics and parts fabricated from titanium alloy powder.
The program also has worked with small- and mid-sized area companies to provide tools to support the creation of supply chains for bigger companies or the U.S. government. It also has provided help to a number of small area businesses in acquiring research funding to improve their product offerings.
Woodward Governor is an independent designer, manufacturer and service provider of energy control solutions for aircraft engines, industrial engines and turbines, power generation and mobile industrial equipment.