Posted by Paula Hynes | 04 / 14 / 15 0 Comments

The great recession underscored some inherent weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain.  We have an employment skills gap, an uncoordinated approach to nurturing innovation, and an export imbalance.  Since 2011, the federal government focused on changing this paradigm and made American manufacturing a priority.  Under the guidance of the Department of Commerce/NIST, they developed an infrastructure with dedicated funding to rebuild our manufacturing sector. 

Many industrialized countries invest heavily in identifying and developing new technologies, materials, and processes.  The U.S. government is following suit by establishing a network of innovation hubs throughout the country.  These hubs will be funded by public and private sector investments with the goal of being self-funding within five to seven years.   They are strategically located close to the industries and academia that best serve the mission of each institute. Below is an overview of this program.

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation launched in 2013 with the goal of “strengthening the innovation, performance, competitiveness and job-creating power of U.S. manufacturing.”  The NNMI is the infrastructure for the innovation network.

According to the Advanced Manufacturing Portal “The network will help to address a damaging inconsistency in U.S. economic and innovation policies.” To achieve that goal, the organization will create up to 15 regional offices dubbed Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation or IMIs.  The institutes will focus on select areas of innovation and technology and speed new developments to market.  Each institute will be linked to an academic or innovation consortium and a federal agency partner.

manufacturing statistics infographic

                                                           Source:  U.S. Department of Treasury

National Additive Manufacturing Institute or America Makes

Launched 8/16/2012

Federal Partner – Department of Defense

Location:  Youngstown, Ohio

The test pilot of this new innovation network launched in 2013.  America Makes: The National Additive Manufacturing Institute is focused on 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies.

The mission detail*:

“America Makes ( aims to accelerate the development and transfer of additive manufacturing technologies to the nation’s manufacturing sector and to increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness by:

  • Fostering a highly collaborative infrastructure for the open exchange of additive manufacturing information and research.
  • Facilitating the development, evaluation, and deployment of efficient and flexible additive manufacturing technologies.
  • Engaging with educational institutions and companies to supply education and training in additive manufacturing technologies to create an adaptive, leading workforce.
  • Serving as a national institute with regional and national impact on additive manufacturing capabilities.”
  • Linking and integrating U.S. companies with existing public, private, or not-for-profit industrial and economic development resources, and with business incubators, focusing on assisting small- and medium-sized enterprises and early-stage companies (start-ups).

American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute or Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT)

Launched  - 2/25/2014

Federal Partner – Department of Defense

Location:  Detroit, MI

On January 15, 2015, the new 100,000 opened its doors.  Detroit is an ideal location for this facility.  This area is the epicenter for automotive development and design.  Materials like aluminum, magnesium, and other lightweight metals will be tested and developed for commercial and military use.  The center will also train and develop the next generation of workers who will use these new technologies and materials in the advanced manufacturing factories of tomorrow.

 The mission detail*:

  • Facilitate and accelerate the development of lightweight metal to be used in commercial production.
  • Harness the concentration of automotive research and development in the region.
  • Facilitate advances in lightweight metal manufacturing technology across industries.
  • Train the manufacturing workforce in the new technologies is critical to sustaining leadership.

Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII)

Launched  - 2/25/2014

Federal Partner – Department of Defense

Location:  Chicago, IL

The mandate of this institute is to develop high-performance production practices.  The new state-of-the-art facility for digital manufacturing and design will develop and innovate the manufacturing tools and processes needed to streamline and maintain a networked supply chain.  This includes IT tools, standards, models, sensors, controls, practices and skills, and how to transition these tools to the U.S. design & manufacturing industrial base for full-scale application.

The mission detail*:

  • Focus on “applying cutting-edge digital technologies to reduce the time and cost of manufacturing, strengthen the capabilities of the U.S. supply chain, and reduce acquisition costs.”
  • Develop and demonstrate digital manufacturing technologies and deploy and commercialize these technologies across key manufacturing industries.”

Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute or Power America

Launched  - 1/24/2014

Federal Partner – Department of Energy

Location:  Raleigh, NC

The focus of this institute is to develop technology to make large scale production of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors possible.  According to the AMNPO website “The institute will also pair chip designers and manufacturers with large power electronic manufacturers and suppliers to bring these technologies to market faster and will offer training, higher education programs and hands-on internships that give American workers the skills for new job opportunities and meet the needs of this emerging and globally competitive industry.

The new institute is focused on enabling the next generation of energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics in the next five years. These improvements will make power electronic devices like motors, consumer electronics, and devices that support our power grid faster, smaller, and more efficient.”

 Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation

 Launched  - 1/09/2015

Federal Partner – Department of Energy

Location:  Knoxville, TN

On January 9, 2015, the president announced the launch of the latest regional institutes that will be led by the University of Tennessee.  The Institute for Advanced Composites will be focused on the development of advanced composites, like carbon fiber, that can be used to replace heavier metals. This institute will be a consortium of over 122 manufacturers, material suppliers, nonprofits, and universities.



Look for more to come

There are still more innovation hubs in the works.  A call for entries has been made to establish the Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute or “Smart Manufacturing”.  This institute will focus on reducing manufacturing energy consumption and costs.  The Integrated Photonics Institute will “establish a state-of-the-art in the design, manufacture, testing, assembly, and packaging of complex photonic integrated circuits that combine a variety of photonic and electronic components to achieve functionality.”  The Flexible Hybrid Electronics Innovation Institute will be tasked with innovating silicon chips that are flexible and intelligent.  These chips can be used in components for communications, medical, power, and processing devices.

The President has made manufacturing a priority.  This sector creates solid middle-class jobs, helps strengthen the economy and increases our export capacity.  Manufacturing companies comprise 12% of our GDP and have the highest rate of investment in research, development and innovation.  The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation provides a support system designed to nurture the new technologies and skills needed to secure our future.

 Sources:  Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO); LIFT, Detroit, MI; DMDII, Chicago, IL; PowerAmerica, Raleigh, NC; Department of Energy; America Makes, Youngstown, OH.

Topics: Manufacturing, American Manufacturing and Products, Made in America, Automation and Robotics