Matthew Realff on Advanced Manufacturing and Processing [Interview]

The Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing is a peer-reviewed, online journal focused on capturing leading-edge, new manufacturing techniques and technologies that reduce costs, save energy, and create solutions that address societal needs.

The journal includes reviews, research reports, perspectives, and commentaries that apply chemical engineering principles and foundational knowledge to showcase the developments in and interdisciplinary nature of advanced manufacturing.

I spoke with the journal's editor-in-chief, Matthew Realff, about advanced manufacturing and how it relates to chemical engineers and the industries and research areas they work in.

How does the developing area of advanced manufacturing relate to chemical engineers?

Chemical engineers are foundational to advanced manufacturing. The skill set needed for scaling up complex materials and chemistries, taking them from the lab to the production floor, is core to chemical engineering. 

For example, process systems engineering combines the understanding of the fundamental physical phenomena with design, optimization, and control of unit processes. This enables advanced manufacturing at the plant level but also informs supply chain configuration and production scheduling. The influence is two way: new techniques in robotics can be used to deliver complex process equipment through 3D printing, and advances in the materials to be printed enable 3D printing to deliver more complex functionality in applications such as tissue engineering and process intensification.

What are the industries and research areas of chemical engineering where you see advanced manufacturing having the biggest impact?

There are many areas that will benefit from integrating advanced manufacturing concepts into chemicaI and biological processes. For example, I think that tissue and biological cell manufacturing will benefit significantly from advanced  manufacturing techniques. Processes where we can sense and manipulate individual cells being moved through complex geometries will enable higher yields and throughputs of specific cell types. Scaffolds that are tailored both geometrically and chemically to support cell growth and differentiation can be manufactured. 

Beyond cells and tissues, traditional processes can be intensified by using advanced manufacturing to enable higher mass and heat transfer rates, allowing us to reduce the process footprint both in space and in the resources used to make products. Advanced manufacturing will enable discovery-based research to move more rapidly from the bench into practice across the chemical and materials domains and so can have a broad impact on how research results in innovation.

How do you view the role of the new Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing in the continued development of this field?

The journal will serve as an important forum for archival research in advanced manufacturing and processing with a particular emphasis on how that research connects to societal impacts through different metrics of performance. We have to understand how to harness advanced manufacturing to deliver products and services with lower environmental impact and at costs that enable equitable access, particularly in healthcare and energy.

What resources are available to foster collaboration and technology advancement in the advanced manufacturing community? (Manufacturing USA, AIChE Annual Meeting topical conference, etc.)

The Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) is an excellent resource. An important initiative is Manufacturing USA, which is an umbrella over the institutes that have been established to promote different aspects of manufacturing. There are several of these institutes that are closely aligned to chemical engineering interests, such as the RAPID institute for process intensification and modularization, and The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIMBL), but there is important research for advanced manufacturing and processing going on across all the institutes.

Matthew Realff

Matthew Realff is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing. He is the associate director of the Georgia Tech Strategic Energy Institute, with responsibility for advanced materials and separations applications for energy systems, and an associate director of the Georgia Tech Renewable Bioproducts Institute to help develop programs in chemicals and fuels, with a focus on lignin isolation and conversion.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Wiley and reflects its views, opinions, and insights.