Auburn University’s Lall to Lead the Harsh Environment Node for Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute
By: Morgan Stashick
Auburn University has been selected to lead a national manufacturing effort on harsh environment electronics as part of a U.S. Department of Defense led flexible hybrid electronics institute.
On Friday, Aug. 28, at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced a cooperative agreement to the research consortium FlexTech Alliance to establish and manage a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics, or FHE MII.
FlexTech Alliance, based in San Jose, California, will coordinate the FHE MII, which comprises 96 companies, 11 laboratories and non-profits, 43 universities and 15 state and regional organizations. Auburn University will head the only node in the state of Alabama.
Leading Auburn’s node on harsh environments is Pradeep Lall, the John and Anne MacFarlane endowed professor of mechanical engineering and director of Auburn’s NSF Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics, or CAVE.
“This establishment will provide engineers with the integrated skills and theoretical background for the manufacture of flexible hybrid electronics for extreme environment applications,” said Lall. “It will create intellectual property and expenditures on research, education and related activities, as well as catalyze development of technologies which can be manufactured in the state. We have developed strategic partnerships with industry and research labs in Alabama and nationally for development and demonstration of technologies for harsh environment operation.”
The institute will be awarded $75 million in federal funding over a five-year period and is being matched by more than $96 million in cost sharing from non-federal sources including private companies, universities, not-for-profit organizations and several states, including Alabama.
“The strength of the institute will stem from the strong support and previous work of our partner organizations,” said Michael Ciesinski, CEO of FlexTech Alliance. “Auburn University’s strong work in utilizing electronics in harsh environments will lend the institute a huge advantage in the special needs for that environment. We look forward to collaborating with the excellent team there and the CAVE facility.”
In addition to defense, the institute’s activities will benefit a wide range of markets including automotive, communications, consumer electronics, medical devices, health care, transportation and logistics and agriculture.
“I am pleased that Auburn University is a partner in this national organization, and that Dr. Lall is leading the way for its initiatives on harsh environments,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “The institute represents an innovative collaboration between the public and private sectors and has the potential to make a huge impact on our nation as we continue to embrace advanced manufacturing.”
The new institute is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program. The FHE MII is the seventh manufacturing innovation institute announced and the fifth under Department of Defense management. The institutes are intended to bridge the gap between applied research and large-scale product manufacturing, and it is anticipated that Auburn’s harsh environment node will create technologies for the benefit of the nation’s commercial and national defense interests.
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Pradeep Lall, director of the National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environmental Electronics, has been named the John and Anne MacFarlane Endowed Professor in Auburn University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Lall joined the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in 2002 and was named the Thomas Walter Professor in 2005. He earned a master’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1989 and 1993, respectively, and a master of business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern in 2002.
“We greatly appreciate John and Anne’s generous gift and their commitment to the College of Engineering,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering. “This endowment will help sustain the outstanding work of Pradeep Lall, a talented educator and researcher whose work has led to innovative technology design and advancements in electronic systems.”
As the director of NSF-CAVE3, Lall’s research interests include prognostics health management of automotive and harsh environment electronics; electronics failure mechanisms and modeling; and simulation and electronics reliability. During his 13-year tenure at Auburn, he has secured nearly $20 million in research funding and holds three U.S. patents.
He has served as the adviser for more than 45 doctoral and postdoctoral graduates and master’s degree students and has taught numerous courses at Auburn, as well as short courses throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is the author and co-author of two books, 14 book chapters and more than 430 journal and conference papers.
Among other honors received, Lall is a fellow of the Alabama Academy of Sciences, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is a recipient of the IEEE Exceptional Technical Achievement Award, ASME’s Electronics and Photonics Packaging Division Applied Mechanics Award, Surface Mount Technology Association’s Member of Technical Distinction Award, Auburn University’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award, SEC Faculty Achievement Award and Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Senior Faculty Research Award. He has received three Motorola Outstanding Innovation Awards and five Motorola Engineering Awards.
In addition, he has earned 24 Best Paper Awards at national and international conferences. Lall is the founding faculty adviser for the SMTA student chapter at Auburn University and member of the editorial advisory board for the SMTA Journal.
John and Anne MacFarlane, for whom the professorship is named, are both Auburn graduates. John received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering in 1972 and 1973, respectively. A retired ExxonMobil executive with 35 years of experience, he has served on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council. An Auburn native, Anne graduated in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Through their charitable support, the MacFarlanes hold memberships in the college’s Keystone, Ginn and Eagles societies and the university’s 1856 and Foy societies. Both are members of the Auburn Alumni Association.