The National Institute for Aviation Research is spreading its wings. The institute, part of Wichita State University, has strengthened its labs most popular with industry clients and federal agencies and is taking over management of the region's aerospace-to-medical research center.
NIAR director John Tomblin says the institute's Composites & Advanced Materials Lab, Virtual Reality Center, Computational Mechanics Lab and Crash Dynamics Lab have reorganized to reflect industry needs. Resources, including employees, were realigned to reflect growing industry demands for composite materials research and other shifting priorities.
“This shift in research work is a result of the progression of the composite materials industry, as more and more companies seek to replace traditional airframe metallic materials with lighter, more maintainable composite materials,” Tomblin says.
As part of the university's efforts to capitalize on the local aerospace industry's capabilities, the National Center for Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research (CIBOR) was cofounded in 2008 by Wichita State and the Via Christi Health system to find medical uses for aerospace processes and materials. The center recently came under NIAR management.
CIBOR's goal is to explore how composites developed in the aerospace industry can also be used to make medical devices. Current research includes developing a fast-setting composite stabilization device for the battlefield as part of a U.S. Department of Defense grant.
CIBOR has submitted several patents and has already attracted and completed several contracts for major orthopedic manufacturers. It has also conducted research that will influence development of orthopedic devices, such as high-end knee implant design and MRI safety.