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DoD Awards $70M for Digital Manufacturing Open Research Lab

DoD Awards $70M for Digital Manufacturing Open Research Lab

As part of President Obama's promise to invest in innovation in American manufacturing, the US Department of Defense has awarded Chicago-based UI Labs $70 million to open the Digital Lab for Manufacturing, a research and commercialization institution for the development of new processes and strategies to promote digital manufacturing.

Obama made the announcement Tuesday in an event at the White House, where he was joined by technology and manufacturing industry leaders who have come together on the project. The move is part of the administration's goal -- mentioned in Obama's State of the Union address last month -- to promote economic development, and the creation of jobs and innovation through its support of digital manufacturing.

The president on Tuesday also unveiled two other efforts to promote innovation in manufacturing -- a Detroit area-based lab with a focus on the use of lightweight and modern metals called the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and a competition to develop a new institute to focus on research in advanced composites.

All of the efforts are part of the administration's push to promote US manufacturing, which has been steadily losing business over the last several years to offshore ventures where labor and facilities are less expensive and more productive. The administration is pinning its hopes in American manufacturing on some of the innovations in which the industry already is making investments.

Digital manufacturing, which uses an integrated, computer-based system comprised of simulation 3D visualization, analytics, and various collaboration tools to create product and manufacturing process definitions simultaneously, is a key focus among the new efforts. Additive manufacturing -- more commonly known as 3D printing -- the use of lighter, composite materials alongside more traditional materials, and advanced robotic automation are among some of the new technologies and processes being used in digital manufacturing.

These technologies are creating more efficiency, cutting costs, and allowing for the development of better products, but they are still generally in their early stages of use. While the manufacturing industry and other researchers have been developing processes to integrate them into the manufacturing industry, more focus is needed, Siemens PLM Software CEO Chuck Grindstaff told Design News.

"We want to make making sure the companies that do want to work on these advanced processes can do so effectively," he told us. "We want to take the best and brightest processes for the future and to make sure our companies are working together to apply these processes to be most effective."

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