What Advanced Manufacturing Institutes Do, and Why They Matter

phillips f1 racecarAdvanced manufacturing, or any activity that makes use of cutting-edge materials and emerging capabilities, is facing enormous challenges.

According to manufacturing.gov, “American leadership in manufacturing, and, as a consequence, innovation, is at risk.” This is happening now, and the U.S. global share of high technology has fallen from 34% to 38%, along with the declining share of global high-technology exports.

However, “there is broad agreement that, for the United States to prosper in the 21st century, it must (emphasis added) have a high-performing manufacturing sector. In a recent survey, 85% of Americans agreed that manufacturing is important to our standard of living.”

Thus, to improve America’s economic straits, focusing on advanced manufacturing makes sense. Advanced manufacturers are those who are the most likely to create innovative product, as well as innovative processes. In turn, these processes require workers with high skills to conduct them, so increasing our national solvency in advanced manufacturing benefits the workers, as well as individual companies or corporations.

You can read more about Distefano’s history here, but we’re very proud to be part of a tradition dedicated to effectively designing for manufacturing (such as introducing new part features, substituted materials, or more cost-effective production) that not only benefits the customer, but the entire trajectory of manufacturing today.

In the last few years, you may have noticed some Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation popping up around the country, precisely to achieve this goal. Each institute has a unique concentration, but essentially is designed to provide facilities for local start-ups and manufacturers to help them scale new technologies and strengthen their business capabilities.

There aren’t any in Nebraska yet, but there are a few in the Midwest (Chicago, Ohio, and Detroit). For example, America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio, focuses on additive manufacturing: Helping the United States grow the 3D printing industry to be globally competitive.

Paul Lester, digital specialist for the Office of Public Affairs, notes a few reasons why these institutes are literally on their way to changing the landscape of advanced manufacturing. As hubs for businesses, academic institutions, and federal agencies, the institutes can put traditionally disparate entities in one place, as well as provide educational opportunities and training for students at all levels.

Finally, each institute was launched with a five-year commitment by the federal government, as well as equal or greater investment by the private sector. This is one of the largest investments in advanced manufacturing that the country has ever seen, and is certainly beneficial for investment in the industry as a whole.

It seems that this investment is being echoed across the country, too. Just this week, SUNY Polytechnic Institute announced their establishment of a new Advanced Patterning and Productivity Center, a $500 million program designed to accelerate the introduction of extreme ultraviolet lithography technologies into manufacturing. The Rochester Institute of Technology received a $500,000 grant for additive technologies, and earlier this year, Area Development reported that advanced manufacturing is finding its own hub in the Midwest thanks to increased investment.

We look forward to seeing the role that the Advanced Manufacturing Institutes could have on changing the landscape of advanced manufacturing, especially as awareness continues to spread and Institutes continue to emerge.

photo credit: Williams F1 car #2 via photopin (license)

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