Intersection of disciplines: Tradition meets the Trendy


Frans Johansson, author of the book “The Medici Effect” says “More and more, innovation is springing not from particular industries or disciplines, but rather across them”. At the intersections of different disciplines lie opportunities galore. One such intersection that is likely to be transformational is between the mother technology “materials engineering” with the new age technology “ICT”. And this is further working together with other disciplines of engineering such as “mechanical engineering” to form an immensely powerful confluence that can transform this “material world.”

Think, for a minute.

What are the industries that get benefited from the marriage of ICT and materials engineering? Aerospace and Automobiles, Electronics and Energy, Metals and Mining, Industrial Equipment and Information Technology to name a few.

Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) is a result of this mingling of multiple disciplines to transform the way materials get used in design and manufacturing of the products in future. It is pictured as a transformational way future materials development will be done in close association with end product design enabled by ICT. An integrated systems engineering approach envisaged in ICME is expected to reduce the time and cost of development of new materials and their manufacturing processes. It will also allow for faster deployment in products and better material-informed product design.

Moreover, such a process is expected to enable systematic development of materials in place of the current dependence on heuristics, or, even serendipity. The use of modeling and simulation tools with advances in HPC is envisaged as a primary driver in this paradigm to reduce tedious and expensive experimental development. Modeling and simulation tools are expected to map the composition, processing, structure and properties of materials and ultimately link them to help design and evaluate product performance. However, the current state of the art of materials science does not meet these requirements fully and considerable gaps exist.

Besides the development of physics-based or phenomenological (based on experience, usually first-hand, and existence of materials or objects) models, one needs to look at other aspects such as mining the vast amount of data available for discovery of new phenomena or relations and use of tacit or experiential knowledge. Such a broad based study and development of material-manufacturing-component-performance needs to be facilitated by knowledge engineering systems. Finally, enabling this concept would require a comprehensive IT set up where scientists, engineers and designers can work together.

The concept of ICME has gained significant attention across the world. United States has been a pioneer in this area with large national programs setting the initial stage and now actively pursued by the industry. In India too, there is a significant emphasis on ICME with the topic being identified as a key area of research for government support in the 12th five year plan.

TRDDC is one of the first research centers to be set up in Asia by an IT company. Process Engineering Innovation Lab is one of the TCS Innovation Labs active in the area of materials and manufacturing process modeling. My fellow researchers of this lab have provided many innovative solutions to the industry using modeling and simulation tools, the foundational blocks of ICME. True to its inter-disciplinary nature, it finds great application to several of our businesses and service lines that revolve around manufacturing and product design. This in depth expertise in materials engineering complemented by exemplary expertise in various disciplines of ICT such as knowledge engineering, machine learning, model driven engineering, etc. of our sister lab Software Engineering Lab.

With teams from both labs coming together, we have embarked upon a major program in ICME that focuses on developing tools, methods and an enabling IT platform.

In view of the larger interest in ICME in India as well as in the US, we are co-hosting an Indo-US workshop under the aegis of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF). The IUSSTF is an overseeing government organization that deals with India and US collaborations in research in the disciplines of science and technology.

Titled as the “Indo-US Workshop on ICME for Integrated Realization of Engineered Materials and Products”, to be held from 18th – 21st December, in Pune, India, the workshop is jointly organized by TCS, IIT Bhubaneshwar, IIT Madras from India and Oklahoma University and Georgia Tech of USA.

We have structured the workshop to encourage debates and deliberations upon the needs of materials engineering, convergence of IT and materials engineering; and the possibilities, challenges, and the way forward (standards, platforms, design methods, etc.), with ICME.

The key focus of the workshop is to look at ICME from the engineered product/component perspective with emphasis on metallic materials and products. The Indo-US workshop aims to bring together thought leaders working on ICME related technologies in India and the US to identify gap areas meriting immediate and near future attention.

I will follow this post with another one on the workshop. Until then, tell me what you think of this? Any parallels you see elsewhere?


About the Author

Dr. BP Gautham, Principal Scientist,TCS Innovation Labs
Dr. BP Gautham, Principal Scientist,TCS Innovation Labs – TRDDC, Pune
Gautham is one of the key leads of ICME research program

   Connect with Dr.GauthamConnect with Dr. Gautham

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