Since FY 1994 one of the goals of the HPCC Program has been to address the National Challenges, fundamental applications with broad and direct impact on the Nation's competitiveness and the well-being of its citizens. These Challenges rely on the computing, communications, and information infrastructure technologies developed by the Program and in many cases also on development of Grand Challenge applications. Two of the National Challenge applications described below, Digital Libraries and Electronic Commerce, are fundamental enabling applications that will be used by many of the other National Challenges.
Wide use of library information requires both the information itself and convenient access methods. The past year has seen unprecedented growth in the amount of information available electronically and user access to it. This growth has resulted from several developments, some key ones of which were either funded by the HPCC Program or were begun by HPCC agencies prior to the creation of the Program and continued since then. They include:
Joint Digital Libraries Research Initiative
In FY 1994 NSF, ARPA, and NASA jointly funded a four-year digital libraries research and technologies development activity. Awards were made to six consortia, each led by a university and including more than 10 other organizations such as libraries, museums, publishers, schools, and computing and communications industry companies.
The initiative's objective is to advance the means to collect, store, and organize information in digital forms, and make that information generally available for searching, retrieval, and processing locally and via communication networks -- all in user-friendly ways. The projects address related research issues such as human-computer interaction, pricing and charging, privacy and security, collections management and archiving, librarianship, and user evaluation. The projects also contain extensive outreach and education components. The six projects are:
Digital Library Technology Projects
NASA funds R&D in digital library technology to support access to and distribution of remote sensing images and data, particularly scalable applications in both the public and private sectors. In addition to participating in the joint initiative described immediately above, NASA funded seven digital library technology projects in FY 1994 and early FY 1995. Awardees include public schools, museums, colleges and universities, and small and large businesses. The awards follow. The URL is:
NASA awards to support public use of Earth and space science data over the Internet are described below. In late FY 1995, NASA will solicit for a second round of digital library technology cooperative agreements and grants with industrial and academic partners. The awards are to be made in FY 1996.
Satellite Weather Data Dissemination
NOAA's Satellite Active Archive is a digital library of real-time and historical satellite images from NOAA's Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES). The two-TB (terabyte) library resides on an IBM robotic tape storage system that can be upgraded to handle 50 TB.
Users can search inventories of satellite images, preview representative Earth images, and download images for further processing and analysis. Applications include weather analysis and forecasting, climate research and prediction, global sea surface temperature measurements, atmospheric soundings of temperature and humidity, ocean dynamics research, volcanic eruption monitoring, forest fire detection, and global vegetation analysis.
Environmental Decision Support
In FY 1996 EPA plans to offer research grants to stimulate development of technologies supporting intelligent interactive browsing, retrieval, and integrated analysis of large distributed collections of heterogeneous environmental data. Research targeted to address data storage, indexing, query specification and processing, filtering and summarization, and interoperability of information management systems will enable more integrated environmental decision support and risk assessment.
Computer Science Technical Reports Testbeds
Under ARPA funding, CNRI is developing methods for linking distributed heterogeneous electronic libraries; creating an experimental testbed of Computer Science Technical Reports and related information; exploring alternate network-based search, display, and retrieval techniques; and investigating techniques for electronic copyright management in a networked environment. This effort is being carried out in collaboration with five universities and the Library of Congress. In FY 1995 the project is demonstrating:
Unified Medical Language System (UMLS)
The disparity in biomedical terminology used to describe related concepts in different digital libraries prevents researchers and practitioners from retrieving and integrating relevant biomedical information from different sources such as biomedical literature, medical databases, expert knowledge systems, and clinical records. To address this situation, NIH/NLM has a collaborative program to create a Unified Medical Language System. This program, which now has 500 experimental users worldwide, will help health professionals retrieve electronic biomedical information from a variety of sources, regardless of how the concepts are expressed. The UMLS Metathesaurus is the core of the VA Clinical Lexicon currently being tested by more than 40 VA hospitals in the context of the Electronic Patient Record. The goal is to make it easy for users to link information from patient record systems, bibliographic databases, factual databases, and expert systems. NLM is using UMLS to provide a single point of information access. In FY 1996 it plans to have fully operational intelligent-agent-mediated multi- database searching available to all NLM users with Internet access.
In FY 1995 and FY 1996 NIST plans to establish a demonstration library that incorporates robust search methods and provides access to information on CALS (Continuous Acquisition Life-cycle Support) to serve manufacturing interests.
Public Access to Government Information
The following are HPCC-funded digital libraries that reside on Internet/WWW servers accessible using browsers such as Mosaic.
In FY 1994 NASA established a Remote Sensing Public Access center to provide access to information about numerous digital library technology and remote sensing database application projects. This center is a combined effort of government, large and small companies, and universities.
At the end of FY 1994 and in early FY 1995 NASA funded 18 projects for remote sensing database application projects through grants and cooperative agreements. Awardees include numerous museums, schools and school districts, universities, and large and small companies. The awards are:
NOAA is the steward of environmental data and information for the Nation. These data represent the environmental history of the country since its inception. Over this past year significant amounts of the data have become available on line, either through direct access or on-line orders. The URL of the NOAA Data Catalog containing more than 5,000 data sets is:
The three NOAA National Data centers manage and disseminate these data. Over the past year each has explored new ways of providing data using HPCC technologies. The National Climatic Data center (NCDC) has developed and put on line the Global Climate Perspectives System that lets users manipulate climate data and see the results on line. The National Geophysical Data center (NGDC) provides a broad range of data from the surface of the sun to the geophysics of the Earth and from recent DMSP satellite images back to paleoclimate data. The National Oceanographic Data center (NODC) provides on-line access to the most recently acquired oceanographic data from sources around the world. Their URLs are:
In addition, NOAA has more than 40 locations disseminating on-line information to the Nation.
In FY 1996 NOAA plans to develop a data dissemination pilot that uses advanced data access tools on the Internet and makes select heterogeneous NOAA environmental data, distributed geographically at NOAA data centers, accessible to users in a more timely and complete way.
The Department of Education (ED) has developed the Internet-based AskERIC (Educational Resources Information center) that provides (1) a question and answer service; (2) a Virtual Library of teacher resources such as lesson plans, print and video materials (from CNN, the Discovery Channel, and PBS, for example), and research information; and (3) the National Parent Information Network, developed in conjunction with the National Urban League and others, that contains material to help parents support child development. FY 1995 and FY 1996 efforts address expanding the Virtual Library to include multimedia and hypermedia, completing the digital ERIC bibliographic database, and availability of full text of documents indexed in the ERIC bibliographic database in FY 1995. AskERIC's e- mail address is:
In FY 1995 and FY 1996 ED's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) is building a core set of searchable databases containing current R&D activity, promising and exemplary programs, educational statistics, and departmental information accessible via INet, its Institutional Communications Network. OERI is exploring and testing enhancements to Mosaic useful to K-12 education and users with disabilities.
Health Care Data
NLM's computer-based Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS) was established to achieve rapid access to the Library's vast store of biomedical and health-related information. Through world-wide communications networks, MEDLARS search services are available on line to individuals and institutions. It is searched more than eighteen thousand times a day.
In order to make searching easier and provide a user-friendly way to use MEDLARS, NLM developed Grateful Med, a PC- and Macintosh- compatible software package. The availability of Grateful Med, which can take advantage of the rapid communications afforded by the Internet, has resulted in an upsurge of usage by health professionals.
The National center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is creating automated systems for storing and analyzing knowledge about molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics. NCBI conducts research in advanced methods of computer-based information processing for analyzing the structure and function of biologically important molecules. It facilitates the use of and coordinates databases and software by biotechnology researchers and medical personnel worldwide through Internet access.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides free CancerFax and CancerNet (Internet e-mail) information including PDQ (Physician Data Query) statements on cancer screening, prevention, treatment, and supportive care (in English and in Spanish); cancer fact sheets; and cancer literature. NCI is developing Internet-accessible multimedia digital libraries.
NIST and ARPA collaborate in this National Challenge to make business transactions more efficient and cost effective. These transactions include electronic bidding, ordering and payments, and exchange of digital product specifications and design data. The National Performance Review recommended harnessing these technologies for the benefit of the Federal government and U.S. taxpayers.
Electronic Commerce integrates applications software, data communications, data management, data interchange, and security functions to exchange business transactions and related data.
In 1994 NIST established an Electronic Commerce Integration Facility that deploys and integrates technology developed by several agencies, including ARPA, NSA, and NSF. More than 24 vendors and suppliers participate via cooperative R&D agreements (CRADAs), equipment and software loans for demonstration purposes, and on- line access to electronic catalogs and value-added networks. The latter are commercial networks that add additional functions such as routing of messages and mailboxes where requests for quotations, requests for information, purchase orders, and other transactions can be exchanged among trading partners.
CommerceNet, a prototype electronic bid solicitation system that uses the WWW, has been developed and demonstrated. Funding came from a NIST CRADA with Enterprise Integration Technologies/CommerceNet and ARPA's TRP (Technology Reinvestment Program). On behalf of a purchaser's agent, an intelligent agent automatically solicits bids from supplier lists of desired products and, when the bid closes, presents the bids sorted by price to the purchaser. Complementary technologies (1) use smart card security technology and electronic mail to create digital signatures; (2) use either public key or secret key cryptography to encrypt transactions carried by e-mail; and (3) use security technologies to authenticate the identity of the party initiating the transaction (for example, the bidders) and the contents of the transaction, and to ensure confidentiality of a transaction (for example, a bid). Candidate future activities include integrating these technologies with Mosaic or e-mail into a single package.
To enable information retrieval and update from heterogeneous distributed databases, NIST integrated RDA (standardized remote database access, a communications protocol for establishing connections between database clients and servers) and SQL (Structured Query Language, a language to query and retrieve information from relational databases). This enables information retrieval and update from heterogeneous distributed databases. The Internet-based RDA/SQL prototype can access products from three vendors today, demonstrating how distributed information can be managed and accessed as a single virtual relational database, and how the information can be fused into more complex objects supporting Electronic Commerce and other applications.
In FY 1995 and FY 1996 NIST will collaborate with industry in developing a strategy for using the Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP) and other data interchange standards, and will implement the strategy in NIST demonstration facilities. In FY 1996 NIST will provide an Internet-based interface for information access, query, selection, ordering, and disseminating its Standard Reference Data and Standard Reference Materials.
Through its funding for FAST, ARPA is addressing electronic commerce issues associated with automated parts acquisition. The need for flexible, low-overhead product development and support has been demonstrated in on-going FAST business operations in both DOD and industry. R&D issues include (1) handling high volume communications in electronic commerce, (2) improving the productivity of government buyers (and lowering government cost), and (3) interfaces with “foreign” code (facilitating interoperability with existing software and consequently more rapid dissemination).
In recognition of the synergy between digital libraries and electronic commerce, ARPA plans in FY 1996 to demonstrate prototype information services through a testbed incorporating the two subjects, including experimental charging mechanisms.
The Sustainable Management of Civil Infrastructure
Civil infrastructure systems such as roadways and bridges, water and gas distribution systems, and communications systems are large, complex, heterogeneous, distributed, dynamic systems that affect, and are affected by, technological, environmental, social, political, and economic factors. The life cycle of any such system includes design, construction, operation, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, and disposal; each phase requires coordination among experts in diverse fields addressing the technical and social aspects of the system. In order to address the coordination issues, NSF has funded a National Challenge group at the University of Illinois. Research will focus on modeling the activity and communications within human teams in the context of the available media, technology, and organizational structures. Consideration will be given to how communication and work practices affect and are affected by technological possibilities. The model will be tested against the gas pipeline and road systems of Fort Gordon, GA.
Education and Lifelong Learning
The publicly available digital libraries developed by HPCC agencies are resources for education and lifelong learning. Those libraries and special efforts to use them for education and lifelong learning are described under the "Public Access to Government Information" National Challenge and under Education and Training.
In order to enhance the existing capabilities of utilities for real- time energy supply and demand management, new technology for distributed systems needs to be developed in areas such as interoperability, authentication, privacy control, and multicast data aggregation. DOE plans to fund the development and implementation of both wide-area-based and distributed network tools, services and protocols that enable energy utilities to improve efficiency, conservation, billing and customer service, and that promote end- user interaction and control over their energy use.
NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle, WA, focuses on environmental monitoring in both the coastal and open ocean to support predicting ocean processes on time scales of days to decades. The tropical Pacific Ocean is being monitored in order to understand and predict El Nino events. El Nino events are known to influence strongly the weather patterns over the U.S. as well as fisheries populations along the Pacific coast of North and South America. On-going international research efforts are targeted at understanding the mechanisms by which El Nino events impact weather and fish catch. It is anticipated that this understanding will lead to a monitoring program that will allow forecasters to predict unusually wet or dry weather for large regions in the country months in advance and to anticipate economic impacts of reduced yields of Pacific fisheries. PMEL provides Internet access to near- real-time graphical depictions of tropical Pacific Ocean temperature measurements. These observations are telemetered from buoys via satellite link. An El Nino case study combining Grand Challenge and National Challenge technologies is described.
Building upon the Grand Challenges in biomedical imaging and biomechanics and molecular biology, this National Challenge can improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of the U.S. health care system. The HPCC agencies working in this area include the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR); the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); NIH's NLM, NCRR, and DCRT; ARPA; and NSF. AHCPR and the VA are new to the HPCC Program effective with the FY 1996 budget cycle, and their HPCC efforts are in this National Challenge and in supporting network connectivity:
Activities at several individual agencies are first described, followed by multi-agency activities in computer-based patient records and several projects.
NLM and AHCPR fund three-year grants, initiated in FY 1994, designed to help physicians practice better medicine by using advanced computing and networking capabilities. Testbed networks are being developed to share information sources including computerized patient records and their associated medical images, to allow access to clinical research protocols and on-line reference sources, to provide for remote patient monitoring, teleconferencing, and health professions education. These networks will operate between major medical centers and underserved rural areas, cross- country between medical centers, and within an urban environment between the medical center and underserved urban communities. An evaluation component is also planned to assess the cost and patient outcome changes that result from using such technologies.
NLM grantees will explore the application of virtual reality to medicine by creating and evaluating advanced computer simulations of human anatomic structure that support surgical planning and health professions education. Supported telemedicine projects include those to share neuroradiology images for consultation and patient monitoring (CA), to diagnose skin lesions via teleconsultation (OR), to create a statewide regional telemedicine system for a rural section of the country (WV), and to establish a National Laboratory for the study of Rural Telemedicine (IA). Methods for automatically linking the textual component of a computerized patient record with diagnostic images including pathology, radiology, and ultrasound will be developed. NLM and AHCPR will fund additional cooperative agreements in FY 1995 and FY 1996.
Beginning in FY 1993 NLM also funded a consortium of nine West Virginia institutions to use advanced networking to deliver health care to both rural and urban areas. In FY 1995 the VA Medical center in Clarksburg, WV, joined this Mountaineer Doctor TV Network.
NCRR is using virtual reality for applications that use scientific instruments for molecular biology research and support for select surgical and other therapeutic interventions such as radiation planning. The researcher needs to visualize large amounts of data in a "natural environment." In clinical care the ability to "see" deep inside the body, especially the brain, can determine whether surgery or other intervention can be performed successfully with minimal patient trauma. HPCC technologies are needed to provide realistic real-time virtual reality visualization. NCRR efforts include its atomic force microscope, room-filling-molecule technology to permit better wayfinding, force-arm technology for molecular docking and folding studies, and brain behavior research.
ARPA is developing tools for use in decision making by health care providers and patients/consumers in ambulatory care and in combat casualty and trauma care. Key components include (1) a human/computer interaction manager, (2) a task and context manager, and (3) an information broker. The architecture stresses multi-modal user interfaces; integration of information from heterogeneous sources; multi-modal information acquisition, communication, and presentation; intelligent on-line support for medical personnel; logistical planning and resource allocation; and simulation-based systems for decision makers in health care management.
Computer-Based Patient Records (CBPR)
The goals of this activity are to improve the accuracy, uniformity, and retrievability of patient care data by the health care community and to use these data to improve clinical decision making. This requires the development of clinical data standards and the deployment of distributed integrated computing systems throughout health care institutions and to health care providers. Thorough testing is required as these systems, decision support algorithms, and knowledge servers are brought into hospitals, the offices of doctors and other health care providers, and patients' homes. These efforts will bring the benefits of HPCC to health care providers and consumers throughout the U.S.
In FY 1995 AHCPR and NLM plan to fund R&D to incorporate guidelines, decision aids, expert systems, and reminder systems in CBPR systems.
In FY 1995 AHCPR supports studies in the use of CBPR for patient care, outcome analysis, payment, quality assessment, research, and data transmission among institutions and providers. In FY 1996 AHCPR plans to support:
The VA Decentralized Hospital Computer System is an integrated automated system that includes more than 60 clinical and management modules. Its information sources include facility- based integrated patient-based information and databases on compact disks. Patient medical images are integrated with CBPR on clinical workstations at some VA medical centers. Plans include increased access to other networked resources such as NLM's Medline and other Internet-based libraries. Efforts focus on data capture, order entry of procedures and services (for example, laboratory tests and diet), standards, security, and a blend of in- house development, federal sharing initiatives, and private industry systems. The agency is developing clinical software for workstations and networking distributed clinical workstations to extend and expand access to CBPR. Another VA project addresses sharing medical information with the DOD; issues include exchanging data and interoperability. VA work is illustrated below.
A visual medical chart containing multidisciplinary images is integrated into a medical record containing a patient's demographic and clinical data. Developed by the VA, this prototype will upgrade the visual chart system used at two VA medical centers.
VA is prototyping OE/RR (Order Entry/Results Reporting), a component of a patient's electronic medical record. Using it and the patient's health summary data contained in a hospital's information system, a clinician can enter laboratory reports and view results, including special alerts to critical conditions.
Radiation Treatment Planning
In treating a cancer patient, a radiation oncologist seeks to determine the optimum placement, blocking, and intensity of radiation beams so that the body volume to be irradiated receives the maximum dosage while surrounding tissue has minimum damage. Computationally intensive techniques have proved useful in planning such treatment. The input is a series of images such as from a CAT scan; bones, organs, and the tumor are identified; a beam placement plan is developed; and the radiation is simulated. The output is a series of two-dimensional images showing isodose contour maps and relative radiation absorption. The output from using different beam placement plans is compared in order to select the most effective plan. While today all beams lie in the same plane, researchers have begun assembling the computing resources and implementing simulations for oblique beam placement plans that promise to be more effective. At DCRT, these resources include an Intel iPSC/860, high speed networks, and graphical workstations.
A source image slice with a beam placed and some contours drawn. The contours denote regions of different density and are subsequently used in the radiation dose calculation in place of the source image. The beam specifies the path of the central ray, width, placement, and the presence of a blocking wedge.
Functional Neurological Image Analysis
Researchers at several NIH institutes, including DCRT, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and at the UCLA School of Medicine, are developing software systems to analyze brain image data. In order to compare images from different subjects or from the same subject at different ages or disease stages, linear and nonlinear transformations are used to "warp" the images into a standard "stereotactic space." The warping algorithm developed at UCLA was implemented on DCRT's Intel iPSC, and is being tested with patient data.
DCRT continues its own R&D in warping algorithms and in applications that use these algorithms. This includes (1) enhancing and using the Hammersmith Hospital's Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) warping software for PET scans, (2) implementing SPM in the C language and realizing significant speed increases, (3) implementing principal components analysis for functional brain image data, and (4) investigating methods for segmenting magnetic resonance images into regions of gray matter, white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid, which can be used as structural templates for functional neuroimaging studies.
Single slices of MRI scans of two normal children of different ages. The leftmost scan is warped to have the form of the middle scan using the tie-points identified by the squares. The warped image is shown at right. This work was conducted at NIH's National Institute of Mental Health.
Project Hippocrates: HIgh PerfOrmance Computing for Robot- AssisTEd Surgery
Advanced planning, simulation, and execution technologies for the next generation of computer-assisted surgical robots are being developed in a collaborative effort involving researchers in robotics, computational mechanics, computer science, surgery, and bioengineering. Hip replacement surgery, one of the most common procedures in orthopedic surgery, is targeted because of anticipated benefits from the high precision and accuracy.
The biomechanics-based surgical simulator that is being developed will allow surgeons to evaluate mechanical consequences of a proposed surgical plan. By coupling the simulator with precise surgical robots, the surgeon can plan an "ideal" surgery and ensure that it is carried out. To execute the plan with a robot, the system must be able to register (determine the position and orientation of) a bone in a clinical environment. Surface-based registration is preferred because it does not require surgically-implanted markers to properly align the pre-operative plan with the patient's anatomy, thus reducing the potential for patient trauma associated with the added risk of infection, anesthesia risk, and postoperative pain stemming from a second surgical procedure. Success of both surgical registration and pre-operative simulation depends strongly on the realism of the geometric and physical models. High performance computing is needed to overcome the computational complexities in modeling, simulation, and registration. Advanced human-computer interaction techniques will be used to ensure clinical viability.
This NSF-funded National Challenge is being conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with orthopedic surgeons at Pittsburgh's Shadyside Hospital.
Prototypes for Clinic-Based Collaboration
A team of physicians, computer scientists, and sociologists based at the University of Michigan will design, implement, test, and evaluate a prototype system for viewing medical images over a distance, allowing primary care physicians to collaborate with radiologists out of the region. Research issues in this NSF-funded National Challenge include adapting conventional medical diagnostic practice to using remote collaboration technology and assessing the impact of this technology.
Trusted Interoperation of Health Care Information Systems
This National Challenge effort will develop and demonstrate techniques for the interoperation of health care databases containing sensitive data that mismatch in semantics, representations, and security/privacy policies. Areas being addressed include the relationship and difference between security and privacy; how to access disparate databases without compromising the security and privacy policies of each; and capturing information from multiple databases with different structures. With NSF support, the research will be conducted by the Departments of Computer Science and Medicine at Stanford University in collaboration with Inova Health Systems.
Collaboratory for Microscopic Digital Anatomy (CMDA)
This NSF-funded National Challenge is a collaboratory providing remote acquisition, analysis, and visualization of data from the Intermediate High Voltage Electron Microscope at the University of California at San Diego. CMDA will provide transparent distribution of computationally intensive tasks such as those involved in the acquisition and derivation of three-dimensional representations of biological structure using computed electron tomography. A scientist can use the remote Gridbrowser interface (illustrated above right) to control the microscope; focusing and registration of images will be automatic. When a tomographic representation is desired, the images will be acquired, automatically transferred to appropriate high performance computing systems for tomographic reconstruction and volume rendering, and automatically transferred back to the scientist's workstation for viewing and analysis. Scientists at different sites will be able to use Gridbrowser for collaborative analysis.
This Gridbrowser interface shows (1) a low magnification survey with gridlines identifying the source of the higher magnification view, (2) cross-hairs identifying the current position of the microscope stage (which can be changed remotely), and (3) a red- green stereo view of the three-dimensional volume derived from acquired data.
Distributed Imaging Over Gigabit Networks
The focus of this NSF-supported National Challenge at Washington University in St. Louis is on distributed imaging applications over gigabit networks and the underlying protocols and networking technology needed to support those applications. There are two principal applications. One uses a computational optical sectioning microscope to visualize the three-dimensional structure and function of developing organisms at the cellular level. In this application, gigabit networks are used to transfer raw data from the microscope to mass storage devices and to massively parallel image processors that synthesize the images and then transfer them (again, across the network) to display stations at sites around the campus. The second application is in neurosciences: three- dimensional data sets of the brains of individual specimens are mapped onto a labeled reference brain in order to help identify significant features and conduct comparative studies. The enabling technologies include a local gigabit network connecting biologists, neurologists, computer scientists, and electrical engineers; and operating system, visualization, and database software for near- real-time interaction by the participants with one another and with the experiments.
Manufacturing Processes and Products
HPCC technologies are being applied to the design of processes and products as well as to the processing and manufacturing of products. Key aspects include the development of new standards for product data that are used throughout the design and production process and the integration of design with processing and manufacturing. Of particular interest are the mechanical, electronics, construction, and chemical industries.
An example of the types of user interfaces required to visualize data on manufacturing activities in a production facility. A prototype facility was simulated to provide for real-time views into the factory control system database and to simulate manufacturing data access by multiple users.
NIST's Manufacturing Testbed
As part of its Systems Integration for Manufacturing Applications (SIMA) program, NIST established the Advanced Manufacturing Systems and Networking Testbed (AMSANT). AMSANT serves as a demonstration site for industrial suppliers and users and assists industry in developing and implementing voluntary standards. Prototype systems and interface specifications are communicated to appropriate standards organizations. On-going work addresses interface protocols, information models, and integration architectures. In FY 1995 the AMSANT for mechanical parts production applications and process plants industries was implemented. Products are developed in collaboration with other HPCC agencies and U.S. industry and are made available through workshops, training materials, Internet-based data repositories, and pre-commercial prototype systems that can be installed by potential vendors for testing and evaluation. A prototype STEP Conformance Testing System and Abstract Test Suite Developer's Toolkit, and a software development environment for STEP Applications Protocols were demonstrated.
Information Integration for Simulation-Based Design and Manufacturing
This NSF-funded National Challenge, involving researchers at the University of Iowa and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), is investigating how the NII can be used by engineering organizations wishing to collaborate on design and manufacturing problems. RPI has developed core technologies used to demonstrate the exchange of a solid model of a real steering pump between different CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems at two automobile companies. This was the first such exchange using STEP, which was recently released as an ISO (International Organization for Standards) standard. STEP serves as a neutral format for exchanging product data between any pair of different CAD systems.
This approach is common to computer science -- if for example there are 10 different software packages that do fundamentally the same computations but use different data formats, then establish a neutral format and develop 20 translators, one for each package in each direction. Use one translator to move from one package to the neutral format and another translator to move to the other package. This approach is preferable to developing 90 translators, one for each pair of different packages and both directions. The comparison is much more pronounced when the number of packages is larger, as is the case with thousands of CAD systems.
In FY 1996 research topics include simulating mechanical systems for multidisciplinary design over the Internet and other wide-area networks, design of neutral databases for integrated engineering systems, and distributed control systems for processing engineering changes. The simulation environment will use the PDES/STEP standard for engineering data exchange, the OMG CORBA standard for object service modeling, and Mosaic for data presentation. It will be tested by rebuilding models of components of the Hummer Vehicle's suspension assembly using different CAD software packages and Iowa's simulation-based design environment.
Micromechanical Characteristics of Composite Materials
This NSF-funded National Challenge located at the University of Texas will develop a computationally-based toolbox for the optimal design of composite materials. Mechanical engineers and computer scientists will create a collection of computational components with which engineers can design and analyze composite materials directly from the microstructural level. The microstructural properties will be provided by industrial collaborators such as ALCOA and COMCO of Austin, TX. Research issues include micromechanical modeling of composites, finite element analysis, parallel algorithms, and data structures.
In FY 1995 ARPA expects to: