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Professor of Mechanical Engineering Tony Schmitz will lead UT's involvement in the HAMMER Engineering Research Center.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering Tony Schmitz will lead UT's involvement in the HAMMER Engineering Research Center.

The University of Tennessee is a core member of a new multi-institutional research center for advanced manufacturing. The center is focused on developing and deploying revolutionary intelligent autonomous manufacturing systems and educating a future manufacturing workforce.

The Hybrid Autonomous Manufacturing, Moving from Evolution to Revolution (HAMMER) Engineering Research Center will develop innovations critical to next-generation manufacturing and the preparation of a diverse workforce, and create economic opportunities and ease supply chain issues by strengthening American industry. This focus complements UT’s land-grant mission by strengthening the competitiveness of Tennessee manufacturers and creating educational and workforce development opportunities for Tennesseans.

HAMMER is led by the Ohio State University. Other core university partners are Case Western Reserve University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Northwestern University. In addition, more than 70 collaborating industry, educational, and technical organizations will help develop and implement new manufacturing technologies for agile high-performance and high-quality components.

The National Science Foundation announced funding for HAMMER for five years at $26 million with the ability to renew for another $26 million for an additional five years.

“We are delighted to be a core member of the HAMMER team working with them and our industry partners to make Tennessee manufacturing best in class,” said UT Vice Chancellor for Research Deborah Crawford. ”HAMMER is a strategic asset in UT’s Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing and demonstrates the university’s steadfast commitment to strengthening US competitiveness in next-generation manufacturing.”

Professor of Mechanical Engineering Tony Schmitz will lead UT’s involvement. UT will bring expertise in three key areas:

  • Advanced manufacturing processes, including machining, wire arc additive manufacturing, powder bed fusion additive manufacturing, and metrology
  • Process modeling, including machining learning and data analytics
  • Education and training activities, including undergraduate and graduate research projects, training future educators, and workforce development through the America’s Cutting Edge online and in-person training modules

UT’s work on HAMMER projects will blend expertise from its Tickle College of Engineering and College of Arts and Sciences, with faculty and students representing the Departments of Mathematics; Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering; Nuclear Engineering; and Industrial and Systems Engineering as well as the first-year Engineering Fundamentals program.

Schmitz said the initial HAMMER investments from NSF and others will be leveraged to invigorate US manufacturing.

“The scale of this effort in terms of both university engagement and resources will enable the team and its partners to make meaningful advances in manufacturing research, capabilities, and workforce,” Schmitz said. “At UT, we will treat this opportunity as a vehicle for greater engagement with Tennessee manufacturing and beyond, not a destination. We will build on the significant momentum this engineering research center affords to make long-term impact on US manufacturing.”

The new research center and its partner network offer a rare opportunity to develop not only the future of engineering but also future engineers. Robust partnerships with industry, educational, and technical organizations will enable HAMMER to train personnel at many levels, from precollege to practicing engineers, at scale.

“Increasing educational opportunities while boosting economic outcomes of residents across our region is one of the bedrocks of our mission,” said Tickle College of Engineering Dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair Matthew Mench. “Advanced manufacturing is an area where we as a college and as a university can do those things in a meaningful, directed, and sustained way, and HAMMER is a tremendous enhancement to those efforts.”

The HAMMER-led next-generation certification standards will facilitate widespread adoption of advanced technologies and the associated workforce. One of the pillars of the new research center is diversity and inclusion, and special emphasis will be focused on including urban, military, and Appalachian communities in educational pipeline programs.

“We really want to develop what is a new industry based on hybrid autonomous manufacturing,” said Glenn Daehn, the Mars G. Fontana Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at Ohio State and director of the new center. “We have a team of nearly 40 of the best, most innovative academics in manufacturing, materials, and artificial intelligence across five institutions, and over the past three years developed a vision of what is really a new way of manufacturing and developed plans to change the manufacturing industry. We welcome people reaching out to us asking to be involved.”

The NSF Engineering Research Center program supports convergent research, education, and technology translation at US universities to lead to strong societal impacts.

Each ERC has interacting foundational components that go beyond the research project, including engineering workforce development at all stages, a culture of diversity and inclusion in which all participants gain mutual benefit, and value creation within an innovation ecosystem that will outlast the lifetime of the ERC.

Since the program’s start in 1985, NSF has funded 75 ERCs throughout the US. NSF supports each center for up to 10 years. This investment has led to many successes, including

  • 240+ spinoff companies
  • 900+ patents
  • 14,400+ total bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees to ERC students
  • Numerous research outcomes enabling new technologies

Over the years, the ERC program has adapted to meet the nation’s future workforce and technological needs.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,