UNT gives operational boost to regional manufacturing sector with Department of Energy-backed center

Monday, October 10, 2022 - 09:37
Nourredine Boubekri (left) will lead the center as director along with assistant director Huseyin Bostanci (right)
Nourredine Boubekri (left) will lead the center as director along with assistant director Huseyin Bostanci (right)

DENTON (UNT), Texas — The University of North Texas is set to lead regional manufacturers in bringing more effectiveness and sustainability to their operations as the first university in the North Texas region to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program.

The new center housed in UNT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering at Discovery Park is funded through a $1.75 million Department of Energy grant that will be eligible for renewal every five years. Nourredine Boubekri, professor of mechanical engineering, is the founder, director and principal investigator of UNT’s Industrial Assessment Center (UNTIAC). Huseyin Bostanci, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is assistant director.

UNTIAC complements the existing Center of Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing at UNT which is changing the face of manufacturing — developing advanced material components for industries ranging from biomedical and energy to defense and aerospace — with future-focused solutions and workforce training that will help the U.S. lead global competitiveness.

As the first Industrial Assessment Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the center will help the manufacturing sector improve productivity, save energy, reduce carbon pollution as well as implement lean methodologies, smart manufacturing technologies and robust cybersecurity systems. In addition to conducting research in the energy and manufacturing areas, the center also will involve undergraduate and graduate students in conducting its work, training the next generation of engineers and leaders in these areas.

“North Texas’ diverse manufacturing sector is booming,” said Boubekri, who in 2000 helped found the University of Miami Industrial Assessment Center, which is still funded by Department of Energy. “Our initial assessment in North Texas shows more than 3,000 regional manufacturing companies could qualify for this federal program at no cost to them. And, 85% of these companies do not have inhouse expertise in these areas of focus, which sets us up for a great future collaboration with them.”

UNTIAC is in the process of surveying local manufacturing companies across a range of industries and will identify 20 qualifying companies to start within the first year. Boubekri or Bostanci and members of their team — including 10 undergraduate and two graduate students — will spend time onsite at each facility to collect data about their processes and technologies. The end result is the development of a full report outlining recommendations and solutions by UNTIAC for each facility. UNTIAC will use data collected to inform research projects to solve real-world manufacturing problems.

“The UNT Industrial Assessment Center is an entity that is expected to make a significant impact across North Texas,” Boubekri said. “It will develop partnerships between UNT and manufacturing companies as well as provide our students excellent experiences in energy efficiency, productivity improvements and adaptation of smart technologies. This experience allows our students to be more competitive for internships and jobs in the future.”

UNT is one of 37 universities nationwide to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program. Other existing Texas centers include Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

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