Seeing what works

Janet Gbur and John Lewandowski stand aside a Instru-Met uniaxial testing machine in the AMMRC, each holding specimens to be tested.

Seeing what works

The AMMRC marks 35 years of finding the best materials for the job.

When Distinguished University Professor John Lewandowski founded his lab 35 years ago, prized equipment included a small but mighty rolling mill capable of shaping steel and aluminum alloys destined for cars.


Today, his researchers are just as likely to test the reliability of parts for implantable devices, like pacemakers, where failure really is not an option.


The goal of assuring reliability shines on but the challenges loom more sophisticated at the Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical Reliability Center, a proving ground for the materials that comprise the products of modern life.


The uncommon center is celebrating a landmark birthday in 2022 with plans for growth. Lewandowski, the center director, expects to install about $1 million worth of additional equipment this year. He has high hopes for game-changing grants that would allow the center to advance into robotic controls.


Meanwhile, he’s busy running a one-of-a-kind center that sprawls across several rooms on three floors of the Charles White Metallurgy Building, home to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.


“I don’t think you’ll find something like this anywhere in the country,” he said. “And it continues to expand.”


That’s because products, processes, and materials to produce them continue to grow more refined and complex.


Recently, a student researcher found the flaw causing cracks to form in a truck part that a manufacturer was stamping out by the thousands. Lewandowski’s team helped the manufacturer tighten its steel specifications, solving the problem.


In a quieter room with finer scale equipment, Janet Gbur, PhD ’18, tests wires and cables used in implantable electrodes, tiny devices to be implanted in the human body.


“No one has the breadth of what we have here,” said Gbur, the center’s senior researcher.


The AMMRC contains about $5 million worth of equipment, Lewandowski estimates. That includes fatigue testers, extruders, melters, and forging/forming simulators that pound, stretch, bend, and deform materials of all shapes and sizes. 


Homecoming might offer a good chance to take it all in. Plans are underway for tours of the AMMRC highlighting current projects and lab capabilities. Meanwhile, the center has been celebrating its legacy, and an exciting future, with events and reflections posted to its website:



Student researchers Tumi Adeeko, left, Hayley Wagreich and Juan Garcia evaluate the strength of implantable medical wire.

John Lewandowski, top left, in the AMMRC circa 1989.

“I don’t think you’ll find something like this anywhere in the country. And it continues to expand.”

— John Lewandowski