Intelligent Processing of Materials (IPM) is an emerging control concept, which has enormous potential to improve productivity of processes and the quality of production. IPM focuses on key material properties and characteristics to control the process to develop the requisite properties in the end product. The approach links information gathered by advanced sensors through model references to qualify all such information and to infer properties which cannot be measured directly. This emphasis on properties during processing is the power of the method. The weak link is the difficulty of adequately sensing or inferring material characteristics of interest.
The IPM architecture integrates predictive process models with sensed and inferred information to dynamically control the process to meet the design requirements. A knowledge base is usually required which links processing parameters to materials data, process knowledge, and heuristics relating product properties to microstructure. This paper presents the IPM concept with an emphasis on non-invasive in-process sensors to measure several important process and product parameters in real-time. The IPM approach to an emerging process such as Powder Injection Molding (PIM) is presented. The synergism between the IPM approach and CTC's concurrent engineering methodology, Rational Product and Process Design is presented.