Dr. Ilies Captures NSF CAREER Award

Dr. Horea Ilies, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, was named aNational Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) Award winner in 2007. The five-year $400,000 award will support his investigation into ways to improve the design and manufacture of mechanical systems whose function depends on inherent contact between moving geometries. Such systems are typically encountered in the design and manufacture of mechanisms such as gears and cams, but the same underlying principles are witnessed in other application domains such as computer aided manufacturing, geometric modeling and computer graphics, engineering design, tool path planning in manufacturing, and computer assisted surgery.

One of the main reasons for failures in these systems is that the contact between the parts does not conform to the designed or intended contact, which can be traced to the fact that certain mathematical singularities of the mathematical models have not been taken into consideration during the design stage. Dr. Ilies will seek to develop a generic theoretical framework and computational algorithms for predicting, quantifying, and correcting malfunction or unintended behavior of such systems due to unintended changes in the contact between the moving geometric objects. Such a capability, which could be used, for example, to predict contact disruptions during the early design stages of parts moving in contact, would result in significant reductions in the product development time. In turn, such a decrease in the product development time would induce substantial financial benefits to a company.

Dr. Ilies commented that his CAREER research will “advance the state of the art in computer aided manufacturing, path planning, and geometric modeling by providing algorithms which will, for example, significantly improve on-line testing of tool paths and CNC codes for arbitrarily complex shapes and motions that will reduce under- or over-cutting in machining, improved swept volume calculations and improved collision detection.”

The new formalism will go beyond the state of the art in the design and manufacture of such mechanical systems, by providing computer simulation capabilities that do not exist today. For example, these capabilities will allow the design and manufacturing engineers to consider contact problems that contain highly complex geometric shapes that move according to more realistic 3-dimensional motions. Dr. Ilies expects his generic model will apply equally well in understanding and improving the movement between, say, a tool and workpiece, as well as beyond the manufacturing arena.

Dr. Ilies joined the Mechanical Engineering Department in 2004 from Ford Motor Company, where he was involved in research, manufacturing and product design and development. He was awarded his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2000. His research interests include geometric and physical computing, shape synthesis and geometric reasoning, and theoretical and computational aspects for systematic mechanical design and manufacturing.

The School of Engineering has 16 NSF CAREER Award winners among its faculty, with five awardees named in 2007 alone.