3D printing and additive manufacturing are now on the radar of the federal government. The first of 15 centers of excellence aimed at revitalizing US manufacturing will be dedicated to additive manufacturing (AM). Funded with $70 million, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) was chosen because AM is now seen as key to the future of the US economy.
The 15 institutes are nodes in the Obama administration's billion-dollar National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), announced earlier this year. The network is dedicated to making US manufacturers more competitive and encouraging investment in the US. Each of the 15 institutes will serve as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence. They will bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and the states to solve manufacturing problems innovatively, and give industry members access to best-in-class technologies. They will also create an environment where workers can be educated and trained in advanced AM skills.
The first of 15 centers of excellence aimed at revitalizing US manufacturing will be dedicated to additive manufacturing, which can produce complex, difficult, multi-part shapes such as hollow part molds for this intake manifold, created using Stratasys' Fused Deposition Modeling process.
(Source: Champion Motorsport)
NAMII, the first, pilot institute, will serve as a proof of concept. It will be centered in Youngstown, Ohio, and draw member companies primarily from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt," once known as the "rust belt." Its efforts are expected to benefit the defense, energy, space, and commercial sectors.
Stratasys and Paramount Industries/3D Systems are two of the 40 member companies selected for the program. Other companies include Boeing, ExOne, FMW Composites, General Dynamics, General Electric, Honeywell, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. In addition, members include several research universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations, including the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. The SME will be involved in educating and training AM practitioners, as well as in technology transition and dissemination, according to a press release.
"The drive is to keep manufacturing in the US and also keep jobs here," Jim Williams, general manager of Paramount Industries, told Design News. "Because of the combined partners, the institute will also help us find new, innovative ways to do things that we haven't uncovered before." Paramount, a 3D Systems company, has made several parts for military aircraft using its high-temperature laser sintering (HTLS) process.
Stratasys is already working with the Department of Energy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to jointly develop AM processes that will speed up the production of composite components, based on Stratasys' Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).
NAMII will be funded by an initial $30 million in federal funding, plus $40 million from institute members. It will be managed by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. According to a press release, the Department of Defense is interested in AM for its ability to more cost-effectively make customized parts onsite, while the Department of Energy says that AM could save as much as 50 percent of energy use over traditional subtractive manufacturing processes.