automated machines, manufacturing systems, and robot manipulators; and application of information technology to manufacturing processes, including product design, process planning, equipment control, logistics support, and data interface standards.
The MEL provides technical support for joint industry committees that are developing voluntary standards for measurements, measurement techniques, hardware, software, and data interfaces. The laboratory also maintains the national standards for length and force, as well as a number of subsidiary standards. It offers primary calibration services for these standards, and under unique circumstances accepts especially complex or sensitive measurement assignments of national significance.
The MEL's strategy is to focus on the technical challenges of advanced manufacturing technology and to seek partners both within and outside of government to carry out its programs. MEL has attracted external funding to build its programs and manages hundreds of interactions each year with industry and other external constituencies through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAS) and involvement in consortia, standards committees, and seminars, conferences, and workshops.
As of January 1993, the MEL had a staff (professional, technical, student, clerical, and administrative) of 268 and anticipated a flat operating budget for fiscal year 1993 of approximately $40 million, of which about $11 million had been appropriated by Congress for MEL's Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) funding.
The Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory is subdivided into five divisions--the Precision Engineering Division, Automated Production Technology Division, Robot Systems Division, Factory Automation Systems Division, and Fabrication Technology Division--(Figure 5.1). The laboratory also supports two offices--the Automated Manufacturing Research Facility (AMRF) Program Office, which manages cross-divisional research programs sponsored by other agencies, and the office of Industrial Relations, which is responsible for planning, developing, coordinating, and reviewing programs and activities within the manufacturing community, as well as serving as the liaison to the Department of Commerce (DOC) in advancing product data exchange