New Innovation Institutes To Advance U.S. Manufacturing

Digital manufacturing, PLM, and lightweight materials design took center stage this week as the Obama administration launched a pair of public-private manufacturing innovation institutes as a part of its on-going push to re-invigorate U.S. manufacturing.

Led by the Department of Defense and supported by a $140 million Federal commitment in addition to millions in non-federal resources, the administration announced a Detroit-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities focused on lightweight and modern materials manufacturing and a similar Chicago-based center that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies.

These latest two innovation efforts come on the heels of the Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Institute, headquartered in Raleigh, NC, announced in January. Obama has pledged to launch four of these institutes this year with his vision for a full national network of up to 45 manufacturing institutes over time.

In a press conference announcing the new centers, Obama said the goal was to keep America on the cutting edge of manufacturing and innovation—key requirements for reshoring manufacturing to the United States and ensuring a steady stream of jobs. “I’m really excited about these four hubs, the problem is Germany has 60 of them,” Obama said, reiterating that such an investment can deliver a lead in certain manufacturing areas.

President Obama announces innovative institutes as part of plan to re-invigorate U.S. manufacturing. Image Courtesy of The White House

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing, led by UI LABS, brings together academia, government, and 40 industry partners, including big-name companies like General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens. The applied research institute will develop, demonstrate, and commercialize digital manufacturing technologies in such areas as advanced analysis, intelligent machining, mobile, and the cloud.

Siemens, a Tier One partner for the Digital Lab for Manufacturing project, is making a multi-million dollar investment and committing ongoing strategic leadership, manpower, and its software to bring both the lab and its longer term digital manufacturing vision to fruition, said Chuck Grindstaff, CEO of Siemens PLM Software, in an interview with Desktop Engineering discussing the new initiatives.

“What this says is that with the right kinds of advanced technology, we can be very cost effective anywhere in the world and here in the United States, in particular,” Grindstaff said. “If we can increase the productivity of our processes to the right levels of automation, we can be competitive with [efforts] that have been moved offshore.”

Accompanying the Digital Manufacturing Lab is the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which pairs the leading aluminum, titanium, and high-strength steel manufacturers with universities and labs to concentrate on creating lightweight, high-performance metals and alloys. The aim of this innovation center is to make the United States more competitive by expanding the domestic markets for products made with these lightweight materials, including automobiles, wind turbines, engines, and medical devices.

All of the innovation institutes are designed to serve as a regional hub and “teaching factory,” to educate students and workers while also helping smaller manufacturers access the cutting-edge technologies and equipment.

Watch this video to hear President Obama’s full remarks on the new innovation institutes.

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