PEORIA, Ill., Oct. 6 -- The National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST), part of the US Commerce Department, has awarded Caterpillar, along with Caterpillar's joint venture partners, almost $19 million for two separate multi-year research and development projects. Cutting Edge Optronics, MTS Systems Corp., Bender Shipbuilding and General Electric Corporate Research and Development are Caterpillar's joint-venture partners.The Intelligent Flexible Laser Integration project calls for Caterpillar to develop a new high-powered laser capable of improving manufacturing and repair in, among other industries, commercial and naval shipbuilding, as well as the aircraft and auto industries. The project's aim is to eventually overtake Europe in the area of laser-based manufacturing by developing a new high-powered laser that will be capable of multiple functions. The economic benefits will total more than $12 billion over a six-year period, said Caterpillar. The other project, Coating-Enabled Component Design/Technology Tools for Nanostructured Coatings , is aimed at creating lighter, tougher, and more effective power transmission gears as well as additional machine parts. Caterpillar said that the economy, mostly via the auto industry, should gain more than $6 billion per year if the projects are successful.