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UMaine awarded $7.6 million for Hub and Spoke Program

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UMaine (and the University of Maine System) was awarded $7.6 million from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for Phase 3 of the Hub and Spoke Program. This phase will focus on continuing the development of sustainable structurally reinforced materials while expanding into functionally modified bio-based materials using a wider range of material systems, and workforce development through a new Hub and Spoke Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Large-format additive manufacturing processes for various materials are also being studied.

Recently, the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) unveiled ‘BioHome3D’ – the first 3D printed house made entirely with bio-based materials. BioHome3D was developed with funding from the US Department of Energy’s Hub and Spoke program between the UMaine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Partners included MaineHousing and the Maine Technology Institute. Previously the Univeristy had made headlines for building the first and largest fully 3D printed boat. The University’s experience has led to several grants form the US government to use LFAM technologies in the development of wind energy applications and parts (blades).

The Hub and Spoke Program was initiated in 2016 when officials from Oak Ridge National Laboratory visited Maine as part of the Economic Development Assessment Team. The program combines the Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s extensive forest-derived bio-based composites expertise with advanced manufacturing capabilities through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL.

UMaine awarded $7.6 million for Hub and Spoke Program to study eco sustainability of large format AM processes and materialsUMaine awarded $7.6 million for Hub and Spoke Program to study eco sustainability of large format AM processes and materialsIn 2019, the Hub and Spoke Program received a $20 million award from DOE, $9 million of which came to the University of Maine to fund the development of forest-based biomaterials for use in advanced additive manufacturing. In 2021, an additional $9 million was awarded for the second phase of Hub and Spoke, which continued efforts towards the widespread adoption of nano- and micro-cellulose-reinforced thermoplastic composites as a sustainable feedstock for additive manufacturing. 

Phase 3 will combine new materials with those developed in earlier research phases to commercialize new products that achieve functional parity with conventionally produced components, but at a reduced environmental impact. Another focus will be the development of novel manufacturing processes to tailor these materials to specific energy-relevant use cases with a major focus on low-carbon building technologies.

Manufacturing innovation will involve high throughput additive manufacturing using multi-material extrusion, and hybrid, collaborative robotics with additive manufacturing processes. Additional support is sought for multiple collaborative projects across several key Maine and U.S.-based industries including offshore wind, marine, and building technologies.

Funding will also be used to address workforce development needs through a new Hub and Spoke Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The program will support twelve highly qualified undergraduate students to participate in a ten-week summer research experience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the University of Maine.

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