The Obama administration is challenging the greatest minds in America to join together to invent the future of manufacturing, bringing together industry experts, university researchers, federal and local government and non-profits to accelerate innovation. Since 2012 the Obama administration has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to bridge the gap between big ideas and actual products. Some of these big ideas include bio-printing skin for soldiers on the battlefield, or manufacturing products on an assembly line with zero waste.
Last week marked the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the administration. Five new manufacturing hub competitions will soon launch, which will invest nearly $800 million to transform manufacturing technologies. With these competitions announced, Obama’s goal for “a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) of 15 institutes underway across the country before the end of his administration,” is on track. Below are the next five areas of competition and some brief information.
In hopes of keeping the U.S. competitive globally, the newest manufacturing institute will focus on collaborative robotics – that is building robots that can work seamlessly with and next to humans handling heavy lifting or intricate precision. In collaboration with the Department of Defense, this institute could not only broaden the manufacturing sector, but potentially national security, space exploration, and healthcare.
Collaborators are inventing techniques to manufacture and repair human tissue and organs, which, according to the details “may one day lead to the ability to manufacture new skin for soldiers scarred from combat or to produce life-saving organs for the too many Americans stuck on transplant waiting lists today.” The administration expects to see collaborations between 3D bio-printing and cell science, to supply chain and transportation expertise.
This institute will fundamentally redesign and streamline the process used for manufacturing chemicals, refining fuels, and producing other high-value products. Fracking and coal mining, for example, expend a huge amount energy during extraction. Working with the Department of Energy, this institute will work to cut out waste and save money in manufacturing. The administration estimated, “in the chemical industry alone, these technologies could save more than $9 billion annually in process costs.”
In collaboration with the Department of Energy, this institute will focus on the amount of energy a single product takes to make, and cutting it in half. U.S. manufacturing consumes nearly a third of the nation’s total energy use annually, with much of that energy embodied in the physical products made in manufacturing. With repairs to machines, new technologies replacing old hardware, this consortium will find the most energy-efficient way to reuse, recycle and re-manufacture as many materials as possible.
“The open topic competition design allows industry to propose technology areas seen as critical by leading manufacturers to the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing,” according to the release.
Literally any topic not covered above that affects manufacturing can be submitted to this Industry-proposed Institutes Competition. Earlier this year Congress supported the idea of letting the industry choose the last institute.
“After seeing a 10-year slump 2000 to 2010, the U.S. manufacturing sector has added over 800,000 jobs… and remains more competitive for jobs and investment today compared to recent decades,” according to a release from the administration.
Since February 2010, manufacturing in America is back on the rise, and these new technologies could continue to push the industry forward.