Dr. Robert Gao Awarded NSF GOALI

gao1Dr. Robert X. Gao, the Pratt & Whitney Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues have received a three-year National Science Foundation GOALI (Grant Opportunities For Academic Liaison With Industry) grant to support collaborative research aimed at improving spare parts inventory management in the aircraft industry.

UConn shares this three-year, $450,000 award with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Pratt & Whitney is the industry partner on the project.    

NSF developed the GOALI program as a means to catalyze industry-university partnerships and thus help to ensure that “intellectual capital and emerging technologies are brought together in ways that promote economic growth and an improved quality of life.”

Dr. Gao explains that the goal of the project is to develop the basic science and practical tools to transform sensor measurements collected from a large number of distributed machines (such as jet engines) in the field into forecasting methodologies – along with inventory policies – for the spare parts required to maintain the equipment.  To achieve this goal, the researchers, aided by their colleagues at Pratt & Whitney, will conduct research along four pathways:

  • Develop advanced sensing and signal interpretation methods to diagnose the health status of specific engine parts before they require replacement (versus the prevailing techniques that indicate the overall health of an engine only);
  • Develop models that transform measurement data into predictions of time-to-overhaul and resource requirements;
  • Develop algorithms that forecast part needs, and inventory policies that aggregate this information across equipment, with consideration to field usage and economic conditions; and finally,
  • Create a simulation tool for the monitoring and maintenance of a large fleet to validate the methodology.

The research will culminate in improved forecasting and inventory management for commercial engine spare parts.reactor1a

Beyond these specific technical advancements, Dr. Gao says the project will “determine the economic impact of advanced sensing and predicting methodologies and the resulting improvement in decision-making, and potentially make the case for their pervasive installation. Although the developed models will primarily be validated within Pratt & Whitney’s business units, the models and methods will be beneficial to a wide array of manufacturing firms for whom after-sale service is a critical component of their business.”

In addition to this GOALI research, Dr. Gao has received several other NSF grants since joining UConn in 2008 that focus on advancing the science base of sensing physics for advanced manufacturing (such as electrically-assisted precision micro-rolling and multivariate injection molding control) and building the cyber-physical infrastructure for a “Smart City.”

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