Oak Ridge National Laboratory Appoints New Leadership

Drs. Thomas Kurfess and Scott Smith will lead critical programs in advanced manufacturing, automation and robotics at the lab, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy.


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Thomas Kurfess and Scott Smith are joining the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to support its research in advanced manufacturing. Their respective expertise in control systems and machine tooling expands the capabilities of the department’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL; their experience with industry, academia and the public sector is expected to enhance lab partnerships and promote adoption of new technologies by U.S. manufacturers.

“ORNL has been at the forefront of rapid advances in manufacturing technology, and Drs. Kurfess and Smith will lead critical programs in advanced manufacturing, automation and robotics that support the lab’s mission of delivering scientific and technical solutions to national challenges,” says ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia.

Dr. Kurfess will spearhead the development of new manufacturing platforms and control systems for enabling autonomous manufacturing through robotics and controls. He comes to ORNL from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is the Husco/Ramirez distinguished chair in fluid power and motion control and professor of mechanical engineering. He also served as assistant director for advanced manufacturing at the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he was responsible for engaging the federal sector and scientific community on advanced manufacturing policy.

“I look forward to joining the team at ORNL in creating, implementing and scaling next-generation technologies to move the U.S. manufacturing base forward,” says Dr. Kurfess. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences. He is on the board of trustees for the MTConnect Institute and is the 2018 president of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He will also serve on the board of governors for ASME starting in 2019.

Dr. Smith, professor and chair of mechanical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, will lead ORNL’s advanced machining and machine tool research, focusing on developing systems, processes, sensors and controls. He was recently honored by ASME with the William T. Ennor Manufacturing Technology Award for his “innovations in the field of machining dynamics that have been commercially implemented, leading to significant improvements in machine tool performance and enabling the creation of thin monolithic machined structures in a variety of industries.”

For Dr. Smith, who grew up in Tennessee (where ORNL is located), this new role is also a homecoming. “I am excited about returning home to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, building research and development capabilities in machining and machine tools,” he says. Dr. Smith’s teaching and research areas include high-speed machining, process optimization and machine dynamics. Prior to his work at the University of North Carolina, he served as the assistant director for technology at the U.S. Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office. He holds 11 patents and is one of 17 U.S. fellows of the International Academy for Production Engineering (CIRP).


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