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Students can forge ahead by learning how to combine blacksmithing and robotics

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Blacksmithing isn’t considered much of a growth industry these days, but for students who can combine it with the ever growing world of robotics, it could mean some big dollars.

It is part of a year-long competition by Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT) and the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence at Ohio State University that combines the ancient skill of blacksmithing with the digital age of robotics. They call the process “Robotic Blacksmithing.”

The competition begins this fall and will run for most of the 2016-17 school year and will give students the chance to experience digital or robotic blacksmithing technology.  Teams will compete for at least $50,000 in prizes, which are provided by LIFT.

“This competition will bring these students to the cutting edge of manufacturing technology and prepare the industry for the next big change in technology,” says Glenn Daehn, the competition’s technical director. “By engaging students through competition, we are encouraging them to develop the skills they need to become the innovators and leaders the manufacturing industry needs to thrive in the future.”

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The challenges the kids will experience in the competition include making arbitrary, numerically-described objects by re-shaping materials through plastic deformation and incremental forming processes.

While that may sound complicated, what it really comes down to is the kids will have to form three useful items such as a horseshoe, goblet, and an ultralight-weight truss out of materials. The tasks will get increasing complicated, partially because the process will evolve from the use of clay to then soft and hard metals to form the objects.

Screenshot 2016-08-22 07.51.36The reason why LIFT is so interested in the process is because it sees robotic blacksmithing as the next step in manufacturing. The idea follows the rapidly evolving world of manufacturing with the rather recent additions of Computer Numeric Control, in which cutting tools precisely remove metal to form complex shapes and additive manufacturing and 3-D printers. The printers add successive volumes of material by computer control to create complicated solid components to the world stage.

“The manufacturing industry is changing rapidly, and we need to ensure the workforce of the future has the skills and is confident in using new lightweight technologies and processes,” says Emily Stover DeRocco, director of education and workforce development at LIFT. “This competition will put the latest technology in the hands of students to both provide them the skills they need and encourage them to consider manufacturing as a career in the future.”

Student teams can begin registering for the competition now and work through March 2017. The competition is open to students from high school, community college, career and technical colleges, and colleges and universities. Judging by industry experts, teachers and other leaders will be done in April 2017, with winning teams announced by the end April.

This technology is still very new, and as such there are no system requirements. This creates an exciting opportunity for those interested in forging a new path. Only the material is defined, the technique is wide open.

For more information, please visit www.roboticblacksmithing.com. Complete official rules for the competition will be posted this fall.

To help support the competition and invest in the future of manufacturing, LIFT encourages local manufacturers to both sponsor and mentor teams in their communities.

“So many of the communities in the LIFT region of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee rely on local manufacturers as the backbone of their economies,” DeRocco says. “To continue these synergies, we are encouraging those companies to help invest in the future by supporting competition teams in their schools.”

Detroit was built on manufacturing. If a Detroit area team can win in the competition, it is a chance to showcase both the city and prove what put it on the map has a place in its future.

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