ROCK Program

The ROCK Program is a joint research and design project between commercial component fabricators in the Rockford area and Northern Illinois University. We are located at EIGERlab Facility, a unique national experiment in creating a venue for industry, education, and government to focus on Advanced Manufacturing, in Rockford, Illinois. We assist Rockford area companies in becoming better suppliers and offer NIU faculty opportunities to develop research programs working with industry and government.  We develop and deploy new manufacturing process technologies within Rockford companies.  We are expanding a virtual collaborative network of complimentary small manufacturing companies into a virtual supply chain, called the Manufacturing Alliance of Rock River Valley (MARRV), with advantages of speed, responsiveness, innovation, and reduced costs.


We are located at:

Contact Information:

EIGERlab Second Floor

(815) 316-6370

605 Fulton Avenue

Rockford, IL 61103




dSPACE offers a complete tool chain for controller and ECU development.  With its graphical modeling and offline simulation, it can combine with MATLAB/SIMULINK to save time and costs.  The same model of a function or even an entire system can be used throughout an integrated software environment. With its prototyping systems, ROCK staff can optimize the control design for the real plant without manual programming.  Design faults are found immediately, and corrections can be carried out on the spot.  dSPACE is the world’s leading engineering tool for developing and testing mechatronic control systems.

Tool Inspection System
Infinity3 Camera
Mitutoyo and Navitart Lenses (12X zoom)
Infinity Capture Software
Schott and Stocker & Yale Lighting.

This system is currently being used for capturing images of the end mills used in micro milling machines as well as for parts inspection.  With the images of the end mills, ROCK staff proposes to develop a software tool that will be used by a camera to recognize and distinguish the degree of tool wear and breakage from a used end mill.  With this information we will have the ability to predict the usable life of an end mill, and thus, increase the accuracy and precision of the manufactured parts.

The long term goal for this technology is to have a vision system with these capabilities actually mounted onto the milling-machines.  The mounted cameras will then be utilized for machine health monitoring and tool metrology.  

Vibration Analysis and Simulation Equipment
          Bruel & Kjaer:
                   Analyzer and PULSE System Software
                   Modal Analysis Hardware and ME Scope Software
                   Modal Shakers
          Data Physics:
                   Inertial Shaker
          PCB: Sensors

With this equipment ROCK staff is able to record and simulate vibration down to an adjustable precision.  We are developing a vibration cancellation platform that will isolate the milling machines from environmental vibration, as well as compensate for the machine vibration that will disturb the accuracy of the milling.  A testing stand is currently being built where the components of the platform will be tested. 

This project management software is a collaborative Process Lifecycle Management (cPLM) solution which allows organizations to plan and manage their manufacturing processes in a flexible and predictable way.  It allows us to define the Manufacturing Process Plan and enables us to assess the cost and benefits of each production choice before even a nut has been bought or built.  CaMeLEAN® has advanced flexibility that can significantly improve our competitive value.

R-1 Machine from ProMetal
The ProMetal R-1 is a breakthrough in metal rapid prototyping equipment.  Designed specifically for the needs of research and educational customers, the R1 is an excellent tool for developing powder metal materials and processes, as well as training the next generation of manufacturing engineers and powder metal scientists.  Its applications are enabling prototyping of small, complex PM parts without tooling, accelerating PM material research for layered manufacturing, and facilitating the education of employees and students.



Task One: Cost Study (Benchmarking)
ROCK staff and NIU faculty are performing an analysis of projected production cost of military components and comparing these to similar commercial component production costs.  The intent is to look at similar components to see what cost saving potential lies in Army suppliers adopting more commercial practices.  We are partnering with Hamilton-Sundstrand on this project.

Task Two: Manufacturing Production Process Improvement
ROCK staff and NIU faculty are working with Rockford companies on new processing technology development such as smart forming, titanium machining, ceramics, adiabatic processing, micro-welding, metal cleaning, etc.  This task will use locally available creativity to improve the Army’s ability to readily procure small quantities of spare or new parts.

Task Three: Supply Chain Technology Support
The ROCK Program is utilizing low-cost technologies such as Internet-based collaboration to support a network of businesses.  We are partnering with MARRV on this project. The idea is to produce a virtual collaborative network of complimentary businesses that sell and deliver collective offers.  This combination of small businesses has the advantages of speed, responsiveness, innovation, flexibility, and reduced costs.

Task Four: Wear Benchmarking Study
The objective of this task is to perform a benchmarking study of the Department of Defense’s and industry’s needs to address unusual wear on systems caused by abrasive or corrosive environments, or both.  Special emphasis will be given to areas where use of coatings is likely to provide significant cost benefits.  Another objective of this task is to supply decision makers with authoritative and actionable information and insight on an ongoing basis relative to the status of applied Tribology and Tribology R&D, the tribological needs of the government and industry, and R&D and application priorities. 

Task Five: Tribology Task
The objective of this task is for the Institute of Tribology and Coatings (ITC) to recommend at least three special projects in tribology/coatings that have the potential to:

  1. Positively impact military and industrial systems by use of coatings
  2. Rapidly test materials for corrosion and wear characteristics
  3. Verify the application of project results.




Manufacturing Alliance of Rock River Valley
Developed by Rockford area manufacturers in response to severe economic challenges facing the Rock River Valley, the Manufacturing Alliance of Rock River Valley is a 501(c6) Organization focused on developing and implementing flexible manufacturing networks consisting of community based manufacturers, engineering, financial, legal, government, and private industry.

MARRV works to penetrate new manufacturing markets and also strives to remain competitive with larger manufacturers who are already outsourcing components to efficiently meet the demand of today’s customer.  They provide a tremendous opportunity for smaller companies to use their expertise in meeting those outsourcing demands.



The EIGERlab hosts the creative commercial uses of advanced manufacturing technologies, such as micro-machining.  It brings together the mechanical and industrial engineering expertise of Northern Illinois University, University of Illinois (Urbana), and Alion Science and Technology.  Researchers from these organizations, in conjunction with engineers and technicians from area companies, develop prototypes of precision manufacturing systems and devices, conduct field tests and process evaluations, and demonstrate the efficacy of these to the Department of Defense and potential commercial users in the region.


Hamilton Sundstrand
Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, is among the largest global suppliers of technologically advanced aerospace and industrial products. Headquartered in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, U.S.A., they design and manufacture aerospace systems for commercial, regional, corporate and military aircraft and are a major supplier for international space programs. Industrial products serve industries ranging from hydrocarbon, chemical, and food processing to construction and mining.

Hamilton Sundstrand's Aerospace business units provide technologically advanced systems, components, and services for the commercial and military aerospace and related industries.


TECHWORKS and The Abilities Center
TECHWORKS is a 25,000 square foot facility in Rockford, Illinois dedicated to training and improving individual manufacturing skills. There are presently two components in the facility: the Fastener Training & Technology Center and the Woodward Academy.

Fastener Training & Technology Center offers a unique concept in fastener training.  It was established in the Rockford area through the combined efforts of local fastener companies.  The goal of the Center is to create an awareness of the opportunities available in the fastener industry.

Woodward Academy has been teaching the manufacturing process for the past 37 years.  Graduates of this program have gone on to be successful in many different areas of this industry.  Now the program has become a resource for the entire Midwest.  It is set up to teach people of every skill level from basic skills, such as manual machining and blueprint reading, to more advanced skills, such as 2D and 3D CAD, CNC programming and advanced GD&T. The Woodward Academy is a Rock Valley College Regional Training Center and a Haas Technology Center.  They are setting up an open entry-open exit program to fit the needs of our clients and the community.  Their program has one of the only manual machine labs in the area featuring mills, lathes, OD, and surface grinders.

Alion Science and Technology    
Alion Science and Technology is an employee-owned technology solutions company delivering technical expertise and operational support to the Department of Defense, civilian government agencies, and commercial customers.  They work closely with the Department of Defense and government agencies worldwide helping define and support capabilities, processes, and forces to meet the new strategies.  Their operational experts bring real-world insight to solutions for program management, analysis, and strategy development.  Alion operates over 175,000 square feet of laboratory facilities.

Alion's in-depth knowledge and experience supports industrial operations, from manufacturing to materials development to acoustical engineering. Their technical experts integrate breakthrough sensor technologies providing support to the Department of Defense’s Night Vision Electronic Sensors Laboratory. In addition, Alion provides full engineering design services, reliability and quality control services, and testing capabilities, as well as many more services.

WESTEC (West Suburban Technology Enterprise Center) was formed to support the commercialization of new technologies and the growth of technology-based enterprises in the Northern Illinois region.

A partnership among the State of Illinois, Northern Illinois University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology is the foundation of WESTEC. A branch of ITEC (Illinois Technology Enterprise Corporation), WESTEC is one of eight centers located throughout the state and funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.

WESTEC works to accelerate and help entrepreneurs, early-stage, and existing companies develop clear paths to technology commercialization. With the collaboration of our co-sponsors and resource network, WESTEC helps researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs build the infrastructure to support the development of groundbreaking technologies.


Ingersoll Machine Tools, Inc.
Ingersoll Machine Tools are at work making important products of cast iron and steel, of aluminum and titanium, and of advanced composites. They serve these industries worldwide: automotive, aerospace, construction, agriculture, power generation, and primary metals. Products range from general purpose machines such as the MASTERCENTER to aluminum scalpers, from advanced fiber placement machines to massive High Velocity Aerospace Aluminum Profilers.


Micro Machines International
Micro Machines International, a Certified Woman’s Business Enterprise, is pioneering a totally new way of machining small parts. These parts range from about the size of a quarter to a gear so small that it can fit on the tip of Lincoln’s nose on a penny. They can be accurately machined utilizing the latest in micro machine technology and CNC programming.  These machines provide lower initial investment, portability, inherent accuracy gains, and lab and cell configurations, as well as other benefits.


Materials Modification Inc.
Materials Modification Inc. (MMI) was founded in 1986 and has been involved in cutting-edge research projects for federal agencies and private industry. MMI’s scientists and engineers have developed several novel materials and processes by exploring creative solutions to tough engineering problems using their diverse backgrounds.  This interdisciplinary approach has helped MMI perform research in difficult areas, where traditional approaches have been unsuccessful. MMI is a pioneer in the field of nanomaterials and coatings technology


Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center
IMEC was established in 1996 to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Illinois' small and mid-sized manufacturing firms. A non-profit economic development organization, IMEC is funded in part by the National Institute of Standards and Technology - Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and by fees for services paid by Illinois manufacturers. Experienced staff based at eleven office locations throughout Illinois provide hands-on technical assistance and consulting services to help manufacturers innovate, contain manufacturing costs, streamline processes, and increase profits. They roll up their sleeves and get to know all facets of the business by providing solutions in areas ranging from process optimization to product innovation and from quality improvement to technology integration.

Based on independent research, manufacturers assisted by IMEC achieve sales and cost saving benefits more than four times greater than firms that do not receive similar help. Further, manufacturers assisted by IMEC typically hire workers and invest in their facilities when many others are struggling. These investments generate more than 100 dollars for every dollar the companies pay for services.


Atometric, Inc.
Atometric, Inc. is dedicated to the economical manufacture of small metal and hard composite components requiring precision of one micron or less. ATOMETRIC develops machines, tools and processes focused on metal products smaller than 25 mm (generally fitting within a 1.00 inch cube).  They can enable American manufacturers to enjoy a potential advantage in their competition with low wage foreign companies in the rapidly growing world market for tiny, precisely machined parts. ATOMETRIC can produce metal parts requiring four-axis machining of complex shapes with guaranteed accuracy.


Institute of Tribology and Coatings
The Institute of Tribology and Coatings (ITC) is a nonprofit organization established to improve and advance business, science, and technology practices. Their work is accomplished through a collaborative network of experts and facilities from leading universities, top national laboratories, technical societies, and testing laboratories. Their goal is to improve business, science, and technology practices, resulting in benefits to society as a whole. They accomplish this goal by focusing their services on three key areas: military readiness; industrial competitiveness; and legal effectiveness.

ITC is organized as a collaboration of experts and facilities from multiple, varied groups, including leading universities, national laboratories, technical societies, and established companies across an array of industries. Their collaborative projects harness the valuable assets of these disparate organizations to provide the expertise necessary for innovative approaches to problem solving. They help solve difficult technical problems and empower everyone involved to see problems and issues in new ways allowing for more effective methods to apply to future projects and innovations.

Falex has offered the most complete line of tribology test equipment and services for the evaluation and study of lubrication, friction, wear and abrasion for over 70 years. Over 50 models of test equipment are available specifically designed to evaluate and determine the wear properties of materials and simulate various applications. Equipment designed to meet the requirements of ASTM, ISO and other standard test methods is available for purchase or contract testing. This equipment is used to evaluate: oils, greases, fuels, industrial fluids, hydraulic fluids, synthetics, metal working fluids, solid film lubricants, thermal spray coatings, thin film coatings, plastics, ceramics, ferrous and non ferrous materials.

Rock Island Arsenal
As the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the western world, the Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) provides manufacturing, logistics, and base support services for the Armed Forces. The Arsenal is an active U.S. Army factory, which manufactures ordnance and equipment for the Armed Forces. Some of the Arsenal's most successful manufactured products include the M198 and M119 Towed Howitzers, and the M1A1 Gun Mount. Noted for its expertise in the manufacture of weapons and weapon components, every phase of development and production is available from prototype to full-scale production of major items, spare parts, and repair items. Product items range from artillery gun mounts and recoil mechanisms to aircraft weapons sub-systems. Items manufactured at RIA include artillery, gun mounts, recoil mechanisms, small arms, aircraft weapons sub- system, grenade launchers, weapons simulators, and a host of associated components.
Rock Island Arsenal, known world wide as a leader in excellence, provides essential production capability for artillery/gun mounts, equipment integration, spare parts, and other equipment for the Armed Forces, as well as the assembly of tools, sets, kits and outfits that support equipment in the field. Through new business avenues, the Arsenal can also partner with some non-military entities to assist and advance manufacturing technologies in the private sector.


College of Engineering and Engineering Technology
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115-2854