Book:The Laboratories of Our Lives: Labs, Labs Everywhere!/Labs by industry: Part 3/Manufacturing and R&D

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5.5 Manufacturing and R&D

Hyundai car assembly line.jpg

A manufacturing and R&D laboratory is what it sounds like: a lab associated with the manufacturing process as well as the research and development (R&D) activities that come before it. These labs can be found as part of the company structure, inside a manufacturing facility or separate from one. They may also appear as independent, third-party businesses that contract their services and expertise out to manufacturers and inventors who don't have their own laboratory resources or design knowledge.

It's important to note that when looking at many of the other industry categories in this guide, prior and after, you should notice serious crossover with manufacturing and R&D. In fact, laboratories associated with the automotive, aerospace, and marine; food and beverage; and pharmaceutical industries are almost entirely affiliated with manufacturing and R&D activities. As such, you may notice some redundancy in the test types listed below and those listed in the previously mentioned industry sections. This section is focused on manufacturing and R&D in a more generic, all-encompassing way.

These labs are found heavily in the private sector. Some labs may also appear in the government as part of state-funded effort, and others show up in the academic departments of some universities as an extension of their graduate-level research programs. Manufacturing and R&D laboratories provide many different services, including (but not limited to)[1]:

  • development of advanced materials for manufacturing
  • reverse engineering of products
  • miniaturization of products
  • analysis of shelf life
  • quality control testing
  • biocompatibility testing
  • comparison testing
  • formulation of recipes
  • characterization of materials
  • review and evaluation of designs
  • innovation of manufacturing processes

But how do manufacturing and R&D laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

Unless you live a life of simplicity, growing and making your own food and materials, free of the industrial world, you most likely have at least a vague notion your life is touched by manufacturing and R&D labs on a daily basis. The mobile phone you use, the vehicle you drive or ride in, the pre-packaged food you eat, and the pharmaceuticals you take largely exist because scientists in a laboratory—wet or dry—designed, tested, and quality controlled it. Without these labs, the industrial and technological world you know today would fall apart rapidly.

5.5.1 Client types

Private - Private manufacturing and R&D labs are a staple of the industry, putting people's ideas to work. From a company's internal labs to third-party contract labs, much of the research, development, and quality control activities in manufacturing runs through here.

Examples include:

Government - While not super common, governments at times set up and/or fund laboratories that are dedicated to advancing the field of manufacturing through new and improved fabrication and engineering techniques.

Examples include:

Academic - These laboratories are typically part of a graduate research program, training future engineers and laboratorians while spawning new ideas. As seen with the examples below, the focus on learning and researching manufacturing processes may specialize into specific industries such as food and beverage or nanotechnology.

Examples include:

5.5.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? The list is seemingly infinite, but a few examples include adhesives, battery electrolytes, ceramics, fiber composites, food preservatives, lubricants, metals, nutritional supplements, plant extracts, polymers, rocket engines, semiconductors, and valves.

What sciences are being applied in these labs? Again, the list is long, and the type of science used will depend on what is being developed. The most obvious scientific disciplines include all types and variations of biology, biomechanics, chemistry, engineering, food science, materials science, mathematics, molecular science, nanoscience, and physics.

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Absorption, Accelerated stress testing, Accelerated weathering, Acceleration, Acoustical, Acute contact, Acute oral, Acute toxicity, Adhesion, Aging, Alcohol level, Allergy, Altitude, Antimicrobial, Artificial pollution, Ash, Bioavailability, Bioburden, Biocompatibility, Biodegradation, Biomechanical, Biosafety, Boiling - freezing - melting point, Calorimetry, Carcinogenicity, Case depth, Characterization, Chemical and materials compatibility, Chronic toxicity, Cleanliness, Climatics, Combustion, Compaction, Comparative Tracking Index, Comparison, Compliance/Conformance, Composition, Compression, Conductivity, Contact mechanics, Contamination, Corrosion, Cytotoxicity, Damage tolerance, Deformulation, Degradation, Design review and evaluation, Design verification testing, Detection, Dielectric withstand, Dimensional, Discoloration, Disintegration, Dissolution, Dissolved gas, Drop, Dynamics, Edge crush, Efficacy, Efficiency, Electromagnetic compatibility, Electromagnetic interference, Electrostatic discharge, Elongation, Emissions, Endotoxin, Endurance, Environmental fate, Environmental metabolism, Environmental stress-cracking resistance, Ergonomics, Etching, Expiration dating, Extractables and leachables, Failure, Fatigue, Fault simulation, Flammability, Flash point, Flavor, Fluid dynamics, Fluorescence, Formulation, Fragrance, Friction, Functional testing, Genotoxicity, Grain and particle size, Hazard analysis, Heat resistance, Human factors, Hydraulic, Identification, Immersion, Impact, Impurity, Incident analysis, Incline impact, Inclusion, Inflatability, Ingredient, Ingress, Inhalation, Integrity, Irritation, Iterative, Labeling, Leak, Lightning, Load, Lot release, Lubricity, Macroetch, Macro- and microstructure, Mechanical, Mechanical durability, Metallurgical analysis, Microfluidics, Minimum bactericidal concentration, Minimum inhibitory concentration, Mobility, Moisture, Molecular weight, Mutagenicity, Nanoparticulate, Neurotoxicity, Nutritional, Optical, Oxidation reduction potential, Oxidation stability, Passivation, Pathogen, Penetration, Performance, Permeability, pH, Pharmacokinetic, Photometric, Photostability, Phototoxicity, Plant metabolism, Plating and coating evaluations, Polarimetry, Power quality, Preservative challenge, Pressure, Process safety, Proficiency, Purity, Pyrogenicity, Qualification, Quality control, Radioactivity, Radiochemical, Reflectance, Refractive index, Reliability, Resistance - capacitance - inductance, Safety, Sanitation, Saponification value, Seismic, Sensory, Shear, Shelf life, Shock, Smoke point, Solar, Stability, Sterility, Stress corrosion cracking, Subchronic toxicity, Surface topography, Tear, Tensile, Thermal, Torque, Total viable count, Ultraviolet, Usability, Validation, Velocity and flow, Verification, Vibration, Visibility, Viscosity, Voltage, Weathering, Water activity

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

Like materials tested and sciences applied, the lab equipment of a manufacturing and R&D lab will vary based upon what is being designed, tested, and quality controlled. Food R&D is going to depend on a somewhat different set of laboratory tools than say a lab developing a jet engine, pharmaceutical, or mobile phone.

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the manufacturing and R&D industry?

When it comes to labs that are prevalent but behind the scenes, manufacturing and R&D laboratories stand out. It's easy to take for granted the products we use in our lives; most of the time they taste good, function as expected, or cause the desired effect. That's not to say that shoddy laboratory processes, equipment, and raw materials don't produce bad tasting, non-functional, poorly advertised products because they do; the lab is only part of the equation. But in our industrialized, technological world, we shouldn't forget just how ubiquitous these sorts of labs are. In U.S. colleges and universities alone, 211.8 million net assignable square feet of research space were set aside in 2013 for laboratories, panels, and test rooms to conduct research in all types of sciences, clinical and R&D.[2] Now think about how many private businesses are doing the same thing? Put together, the National Science Board estimated that U.S. R&D activities totaled $456.1 billion in 2013.[2]

5.5.3 Informatics in the manufacturing and R&D industry

Energy optimization and modelling, waste optimization, and methodology improvement are all areas that informatics-friendly manufacturing and R&D labs are looking to improve.[3] Journals such as IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics[4] and conferences such as the International Conference on Industrial Informatics and Computer Systems[5] help expand those and other goals for R&D labs.

Additional ways informatics is impacting labs in the manufacturing and R&D industry:

  • Additive manufacturing (AM)—the process of building up a component layer by layer with a powdered base material (which is relatively new itself)—is being improved through the application of informatics technologies towards the research, development, analysis, and improvement of AM components and tooling, driving down costs, improving part quality, and making processes more efficient.[6]
  • "There is direct need of assessment tools to monitor and estimate environmental impact generated by different types of manufacturing processes," state Zhao et al. Though still in its infancy, some R&D labs are beginning to create associations between their product designs and how they impact the environment.[7]

5.5.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading


  1. Duesterberg, T.J.; Preeg, E.H., ed. (2003). "U.S. Manufacturing: The Engine for Growth in a Global Economy". Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 249. ISBN 9780275980412. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 National Science Board (2016). "Science & Engineering Indicators 2016". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  3. "Manufacturing informatics". Greenwich Manufacturing Group. University of Greenwich. 2013. Archived from the original on 16 August 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  4. "IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics". IEEE. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  5. "International Conference on Industrial Informatics and Computer Systems". World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  6. Mies, D.; Marsden, W.; Warde, S. (2016). "Overview of Additive Manufacturing Informatics: “A Digital Thread”". Integrating Materials and Manufacturing Innovation 5: 6. doi:10.1186/s40192-016-0050-7. 
  7. Zhao, Y.F.; Perry, N.; Andriankaja, H. (2013). "A Manufacturing Informatics Framework for Manufacturing Sustainability Assessment". In Nee, A.; Song, B.; Ong, S.K.. Overview of Additive Manufacturing Informatics: “A Digital Thread”. 475–80. doi:10.1007/978-981-4451-48-2_77. ISBN 9789814451482.