A UT Arlington engineer has received a $142,223 National Science Foundation grant to develop a mathematical method of ensuring for consistency in various manufacturing processes that produce complex data.
Li Zeng, an assistant professor of Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering, said the key to her study is to collect such data, analyze it and report on whether irregularities exist in the process. The work focuses on "profile data," which is far more complex than typical data produced in a quality control process.
"In looking at this complex data, we can gain insight into what happens in the process," said Zeng, who joined the UT Arlington College of Engineering in 2010. "We're not really checking the process. We're checking the data. Then the researchers who use these processes can adjust their variables so they'll have a more consistent system."
For example, a machine shop that manufactures a 6-inch pipe depends upon quality control processes to ensure that each pipe produced is exactly 6 inches. At the nano- and micro-scale, however, some manufacturers find it more difficult to reproduce devices to consistent specifications, Zeng said.
Zeng initially became involved in this field when a former colleague, Jian Yang of bioengineering, began researching and building biodegradable, fluorescent polymers as tiny "scaffolds" to aid in drug delivery, tissue engineering and cellular bioimaging.
"When these scaffolds were being built, they weren't turning out the same every time," Zeng said. "That is problematic when you're conducting experiments and rely on uniformity through that process."
Victoria Chen, professor and interim chair of the IMSE Department, said Zeng's research offers the engineering community solutions for a major concern in state-of-the-art manufacturing.
"Dr. Zeng's work will allow manufactures to trouble-shoot their processes and help them increase quality and efficiencies," Chen said. "She is creating a significant solution to problems businesses encounter every day."
Zeng's work is an example of research excellence at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive institution of more than 33,000 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more.
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