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To walk inside the SMU Research Center for Advanced Manufacturing is to view the future of manufacturing engineering. Located in Richardson’s high-tech corridor, the center is advancing product development using new materials and manufacturing processes.

Radovan Kovacevic, the Herman Brown Professor of Materials and Manufacturing Processes in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, oversees faculty members and Ph.D. students who are researching and developing conceptual products using some of the most advanced manufacturing methods available.

The center’s most promising research is in the area of rapid prototyping and manufacturing, Kovacevic says. In rapid prototyping, three-dimensional models of parts and tools developed by computer-assisted design (CAD) are created out of plastic, paper, or wax. However, SMU researchers use high-powered laser and gas metal arc welding to make structurally sound functional parts, molds, and dies. The technology also is called solid free-form fabrication.

Kovacevic is one of the first researchers nationwide to use rapid prototyping to make metallic parts and tools from a hybrid of gas metal arc welding and precision milling. In doing so, he is creating prototypes that not only have the geometry of the finished product, but its mechanical and metallurgical properties as well. In some instances, his method is the only way to produce the complexity found in real parts, such as conformal channels for cooling and heating, in molds. He can prototype parts and tools using a variety of industrial metals such as super alloys, stainless steel, and tool steel.

"The advantage of this method is that it eliminates several steps in the fabrication of metallic functional parts, thus reducing the crucial lead time between designing a product and bringing it to market," Kovacevic says. "This can give a manufacturer an edge over its competitor."

The holder of two U.S. patents, Kovacevic has published more than 260 technical papers and five books. Before coming to SMU in 1997, he was a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky. He has taught and consulted at universities in China and Europe. Kovacevic is a fellow of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, a Fulbright Scholar, a Duisberg Scholar, and a Humboldt Scholar. He received his Ph.D. in material science from the University of Montenegro, Yugoslavia.

For more information: Radovan Kovacevic
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