Carnegie Mellon University
September 14, 2022

Global Energy Leaders View Innovation at Mill 19

Peter Kerwin
  • University Communications & Marketing
  • 412-268-1151

Energy leaders from around the world attending the inaugural Global Clean Energy Action Forum will see firsthand our region's transformation into a hub of innovation and sustainability. Participants in the forum — hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Carnegie Mellon University on Sept. 21-23 in Pittsburgh — will receive a tour of Mill 19, a former steel mill converted into a state-of-the-art research facility focused on the future of advanced manufacturing and sustainable practices.

Built using the structure's original steel skeleton, Mill 19 now features workspaces, flexible lab bays and a conferencing and workforce training center, powered by a large array of solar panels on the roof. Tour participants will have an opportunity to see the facilities and view demonstrations related to manufacturing.

CMU's Manufacturing Futures Institute (MFI) focuses on exploring new manufacturing technologies and will showcase the robotic wire arc additive manufacturing process, which deposits weld beads, layer by layer, to create three-dimensional objects. This approach uses less energy and reduces waste and costs compared to traditional manufacturing methods. It also ensures supply chain sustainability by reducing a manufacturer's dependency on outside suppliers to provide parts and materials.

"In traditional manufacturing, you often start with a metal blank produced by casting or forging, then you machine the excess away," said Sandra DeVincent Wolf, MFI's executive director. "With additive manufacturing, you start with nothing, then create things. There is minimal waste because you are not creating scrap, and a smaller amount of energy is needed."

Mill 19
Mill 19

A second demonstration will be provided by the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, which was founded at Carnegie Mellon and is now operating as an independent nonprofit helping businesses adopt emerging robotics solutions for manufacturing, including that of clean energy technology. The ARM Institute will show tour participants how a robotic arm can be used to quickly and efficiently inspect complex turbine blades for defects.

"Automated defect inspection has yielded impressive results," said Chris Adams, the institute's senior programs manager. "Leveraging robots for this mundane task saves time and money while also increasing inspection accuracy and speed. This helps get safe products to market faster."

A third demonstration will be provided by Azadeh Sawyer, from CMU's School of Architecture, whose research focuses on how green design can also be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing for building occupants. With the help of virtual reality, Sawyer and her team can quickly prototype thousands of potential building designs and explore each one from the occupant's point of view while also evaluating its energy efficiency.

"We look at different design options and see how they impact energy demand, daylight or shadows instantaneously," Sawyer said. "This is how we ensure our spaces are not depressing and lifeless. Instead, they are human-centric."

Staff from Catalyst Connection, which provides consulting and training services to small manufacturers, will also be on hand to discuss the organization's role in supporting manufacturers in the region. The tour was organized by a team of individuals and organizations, including Carnegie Mellon's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Mill 19Mill 19 is one of several sites in Southwestern Pennsylvania that will get an additional boost from a $62.7 million grant announced on Sept. 2 as part of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The funding will support several area projects focused on robotics, artificial intelligence and automation, including the formation of a robotics manufacturing hub at Mill 19.

The 2022 Global Clean Energy Action Forum is a joint convening of the 13th Clean Energy Ministerial and the 7th Mission Innovation ministerial. Governments, international organizations, the private sector, academia, innovators, civil society, and early-career researchers and policymakers will join together in the three-day event that features topical roundtables with energy and science ministers from 31 countries; CEOs and experts; as well as technology demonstrations and other activities. The event brings together energy leaders from around the world to turn clean energy ambition into action and accelerate the transition toward a more secure energy future.

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