By Barbara Hale
The Applied Research Laboratory has signed a five-year, $25 million cooperative agreement with the Navy to establish a national research and training center in electro-optics, a fast-growing new technology with applications ranging from night vision systems, to phone lines, to interior submarine lighting.
The Electro-Optics Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence (EOC) will involve participation by a 30-member alliance of universities, industries and government research laboratories formed by ARL. Alliance membership will be open to all interested and qualified organizations.
EOC headquarters will be located in an existing facility in Kittanning, Pa., which will also be the site of a model factory used for teaching and training. The EOC's manufacturing development activity is expected to attract new jobs and companies to the Kittanning area. From 20 to 50 new jobs each year can be expected initially based on the rate of industry growth, according to Paul Kurtz, EOC technical director. That growth will produce new jobs and attract new businesses to the area, he said.
Currently, the potential for jobs in the electro-optics industry throughout the United States is high, Kurtz added. There is a shortage of trained electro-optics manufacturing technicians that is projected to reach 300,000 by the year 2000.
"In order for the Navy to take advantage of advances in electro-optics research, new manufacturing technology must be developed to enable companies to turn out affordable products based on electro-optics," said Kurtz. "A workforce to staff the manufacturing firms also must be developed."
The EOC will define, fund and manage manufacturing technology development projects involving the companies throughout the U.S. that are electro-optics alliance members. These companies will submit proposals for funding technical projects designated by the Navy as high priority and in areas of need identified by the firms themselves.
For example, one area identified by the Navy for manufacturing development projects is remote source lighting for submarines and surface ships. Kurtz explained that remote source lighting uses a central bright light source that is "piped" via fiber optics to locations where it is needed. The technique eliminates the need to replace light bulbs, fluorescent lights or similar fixtures and could reduce lighting costs up to 85 percent on some ships or boats. He notes that car manufacturers are already planning to add remote source lighting as a feature in upper-end autos by 2001 or 2002.
Nine universities will participate in the EOC's training efforts along with industrial members of the electro-optics alliance. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is located near EOC headquarters, will serve as the main training site. Each of the universities, including Penn State, will contribute visiting faculty members and curriculum concepts.
The education and training programs will be industry-led, since industry best knows its own workforce needs, said Kurtz.
"Primary program thrusts will include strengthening workforce competency; developing and conducting hands-on training programs, seminars, short courses and teleconferences; and facilitating industry-led development of secondary and post-secondary undergraduate curricula."
Besides manufacturing technology development and workforce training, EOC will develop tools to assess workforce competency and will work with the U.S. departments of Labor and Education and professional societies to update and expand industry-based voluntary skill standards.
In addition to Kurtz, Penn State members of the project include Henry Watson, head of the ARL materials and manufacturing office, and Victor Fishman, senior research associate and EOC director of operations.
Current industry electro-optics alliance members are: II-VI Inc.; American Competitiveness Institute; Advanced Materials Corp.; Contraves Brashear Systems, L.P.; Concurrent Technologies Corp.; DRS Infrared Technologies; Extrude Hone Corp.; General Dynamics; Honeywell Technology Center; ITT Night Vision; Litton Systems Inc.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Navmar Applied Sciences Corp.; Northrop Grumman Corp.; Optical Systems Technology; Quantum Group; RJ Lee Group Inc.; and Schafer Corp.
Academic members are: Alabama A&M University; University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center; Boston University Photonics Center; Carnegie Mellon University; University of Dayton Research Institute; Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Penn State; the University of Pittsburgh; and the University of Rochester Center for Optics Manufacturing.
Government affiliates are Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
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