Manufacturing centers to focus on digital design, metal alloys

Obama to announce Feb. 25 that Chicago and Detroit won the bidding to host the public-private partnerships for manufacturing innovation


The expected announcement Tuesday of two manufacturing innovation institutes in Chicago and Detroit will continue the Obama Administration’s emphasis on high-tech manufacturing while creating a public-private partnership to deliver funding and existing technology.

White House officials were quoted as saying the partnership allows funding for “key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S."

After a 10-month competition among cities to provide a home for these high-tech centers, Detroit’s manufacturing innovation center will focus on developing lightweight allows and metals, while the Chicago innovation center will focus on digital manufacturing. Each center is being funded with $70 million in Department of Defense funding and $70 from private corporations.

Among the companies mentioned in news reports as being part of these private funding sources are EWI, an Ohio-based research company in the metals industry for the Detroit project, and companies such as Siemens, Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin and General Electric for the digital manufacturing center in Chicago.

When the competition for these high tech centers began, White House officials said the centers would “serve as a regional hub designed to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, bringing together companies, universities and community colleges, and Federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.”

The first two such facilities already are in motion. In August 2012, Obama announced creation of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. In January 2014, he announced the creation of a power electronics hub in Raleigh, N.C. funded through the U.S. Department of Energy.

The implications for the innovation centers extend beyond just the manufacturing sector. While the digital manufacturing center “will raise the global competitiveness of U.S. small- and medium-sized manufacturers by smart and comprehensive use of the ‘digital thread’ throughout design, production and support” the Defense Department officials said it will benefit from such a consortium.

“The department requires complex, highly integrated systems to gain technological advantage, but it lacks the open market or volume to push costs or cycle times lower,” officials said in a white paper overview of the plan. It said the digital manufacturing design center would “help drive a paradigm shift in the development, production and sustainability of complex weapons systems by reducing acquisition lead time and costs through the application of digitally networked and synchronized processes and tools.”

For more on each of the innovations centers:

•  Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation
•  Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing
• Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing

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