Architects of Progress

Cutting edge research is at the heart of Navajo Technical University’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing. “It’s not just about making parts,” says Director Scott Halliday

By Wafa Hozien

Navajo Technical University graduate and Materials Lab Coordinator Adriane Tenequer setting up the tensile testing machine. All photos courtesy of NTU.

In the realm of advanced manufacturing, innovation thrives at the intersection of technology, research, and education. At the forefront of this dynamic landscape is Scott Halliday, an industry veteran with over two decades of experience as the director of Navajo Technical University’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Halliday has propelled the Center into a hub of excellence, facilitating cutting-edge research in metal additive manufacturing (AM)—commonly known as 3-D printing—and in situ monitoring while simultaneously driving economic development and educational opportunities within the Navajo Nation and beyond.

 “Metal AM is a game-changer,” said Halliday. “It’s not just about making parts; it’s about designing them with precision, controlling their properties, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Our collaborations with leading institutions allow us to explore new frontiers, whether it’s functionally graded materials for space applications or thermal dynamics for optimized production.”

Promoting Advanced Manufacturing

The center, established in 2018 with funding from the Nation Science Foundation, supported the development of four new degree and certificate training programs in advanced manufacturing technology, including a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Additionally, the center also conducts research in the manufacturing process and actively works to support economic development on the Navajo Nation and employment opportunities for students.

“Navajo Technical University is not just a place of learning; it’s a hub of innovation and transformation,” Halliday said. “Our mission goes beyond education; it’s about driving change, fostering economic growth, and empowering our students to become leaders in the world of advanced manufacturing.”

At the heart of the center’s activities lies metal additive manufacturing, a transformative technology with far-reaching implications. Halliday delves into the intricacies of the process with ease, explaining how it allows for precise control over material properties and microstructures, revolutionizing traditional manufacturing paradigms. He highlights collaborations with renowned institutions such as Virginia Tech, Marshall Space Flight Center, Los Alamos National Lab, and New Mexico State University, where the Center is actively researching functionally graded materials, thermal dynamics, and in situ monitoring.

Halliday emphasizes the immersive nature of the center’s approach. “We believe in learning by doing. Our students don’t just study theories; they actively engage in research projects that have real-world impact. From operating state-of-the-art machinery to analyzing complex data, our students gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire manufacturing process.”

Scott Halliday, director of Navajo Technical University’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing, providing training to students on the CT Scanner during the Summer Advanced Manufacturing Workshop

The Significance of In Situ Monitoring

Central to Halliday’s work is the concept of “in situ monitoring,” a groundbreaking approach that empowers researchers to track and adjust the manufacturing process in real-time. Halliday  noted that monitoring parameters such as melt pool dynamics, temperature changes, and material properties ensures the creation of high-quality parts. This breakthrough technology not only enhances the quality of output but also holds the potential to revolutionize process control and quality assurance in the world of manufacturing.

Halliday’s enthusiasm for in situ monitoring is palpable. “Imagine being able to ‘see’ the manufacturing process as it unfolds. In situ monitoring is a paradigm shift; it gives us unprecedented control and insight. We’re not just building parts; we’re shaping the future of quality assurance and process optimization.”

Empowering the Future Workforce

A driving force behind the center’s endeavors is its commitment to fostering a skilled workforce within the Navajo Nation and the broader community. Halliday’s vision aligns with the Navajo Nation’s Economic Development Plan, aiming to bring manufacturing to the region and create sustainable job opportunities. By training students in advanced manufacturing techniques and equipping them with practical skills, the center is not only promoting economic growth but also nurturing a generation of skilled professionals who can drive change and innovation.

“The Navajo Nation deserves thriving industries and skilled professionals,” Halliday said. “By training our students in cutting-edge technologies, we’re equipping them to be at the forefront of change. Our partnership with a renewable energy company exemplifies our dedication to sustainable growth – our students learn, earn, and contribute simultaneously.”

One of the most significant ways the center is shaping the Navajo Nation’s future is through economic empowerment. By equipping students with cutting-edge skills in advanced manufacturing, the center is cultivating a skilled workforce that can attract industries to the region. As graduates step into roles within manufacturing companies, startups, or at national government labs, they contribute to a diversified economy. This infusion of technical expertise and innovation is what will drive job creation, increase income levels, and reduce unemployment rates within the Navajo Nation and beyond.

Student Joel Yazzie conducting surface analysis

Charting the Path Forward

Halliday envisions a future where the center’s impact extends far beyond its walls. “Our graduates will carry the torch of innovation to industries worldwide. They’ll be the ones designing resilient structures, creating energy-efficient solutions, and revolutionizing manufacturing. Our mission is not only to educate but to catalyze change on a global scale.”

Looking ahead, Scott Halliday envisions a dynamic future for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. His aspirations include expanding the center’s physical infrastructure, embracing new manufacturing technologies, and further enhancing partnerships with both academia and industry. Halliday’s overarching goal is to equip students with a holistic understanding of manufacturing processes, empowering them to tackle real-world challenges and contribute meaningfully to the advancement of technology and society.

“We’re not just educating students; we’re shaping the architects of progress,” he said. “Through collaboration, innovation, and dedication, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing is writing a new chapter in the Navajo Nation’s journey towards economic empowerment and technological leadership.”

With its emphasis on hands-on experience, groundbreaking research, and holistic skill development, the center exemplifies a transformative approach to technology and education, one that not only shapes the future of manufacturing but also paves the way for economic prosperity and educational empowerment within the Navajo Nation and beyond.

As Scott Halliday’s words echo through the center’s bustling laboratories, they reverberate with a promise – a promise of a brighter future, where education and technology converge to create a legacy of transformation and empowerment.

Wafa Hozien, Ph.D. is a university academic affairs executive. Dr. Hozien can be reached @wafahozien on Twitter and Instagram.

Story published August 21, 2023

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