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Developing Materials and Talent

This season, “Road Trippin’ with Steve” stopped in at LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense manufacturing innovation institute. Steve aced his first-ever welding test and learned how LIFT is developing both new materials and manufacturing talent.
Sep 25, 2023

Things are taking off at LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense manufacturing innovation institute, the site of Season 3, Episode 2 of “Road Trippin’ with Steve” an IMTS+ original series.

LIFT is chock-full of smart people (like super-duper smart) doing so many different (and equally amazing) things. From preparing the next generation of skilled workers to developing and testing all types of materials, they are getting it done at LIFT. It was slightly overwhelming — in an amazing way.

First, dear readers, I must make a confession. I have realized during the last few years that I can be insecure around people with PhDs. I always feel nervous that everyone will be in an ivory tower and won’t want to converse with little-old me. Well, once again, I was wrong. These were the nicest, most engaging people you could hope to meet, and again, super-duper smart.

To no one’s surprise, they sent me back to school before they let me loose on the floor to play. To maybe some people’s surprise (you know who you are), I aced the test. So there. I took my first (virtual) welding test, and I got an A!

I have a long-standing respect for welders, and this experience only added to it. Welders are artists. They put on big, heavy helmets and bulky gloves that neutralize their dexterity. Then they create art with metal. Hats off to all you welders out there!

After “graduating” from the LIFT Learning Lab, I got to check out some of the research and testing that is going on just around the corner. As a physics major, I was thrilled to get reacquainted with a mass spectrometer. I must note that the equipment at LIFT was far more advanced than the room-sized one we used in college.

Finally, LIFT gave me a glimpse into the exciting future of material science. Using advanced computational processes, engineers can try thousands of alloys to find the material with the right properties and weight for any application in days, not months. They were also testing non-conventional 3D printing materials using robots that can perform tasks that wouldn’t be safe for humans.

It was a mind-blowing visit, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of LIFT next. If anyone wants to set me up with a welder, let me know!

Learn more about Motor City industry giants by watching all three episodes in Season 3 of “Road Trippin’ with Steve,” an IMTS+ series, at IMTS.com/RTWS. In the first episode Steve tours Stellantis’ Detroit Assembly Complex-Jefferson and in the third episode, Steve visits FANUC America.

Stephen LaMarca
Technology Analyst
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