“We want the next revolution in manufacturing to be made in America!” President Barack Obama proclaimed last week at a visit to Applied Materials in Austin, Tex.
He used the visit to announce a competition to establish the next three “manufacturing innovation institutes” as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The new institutes will be similar to the pilot additive manufacturing institute in Youngstown, Ohio, comprising a collaboration between regional partners from industry, universities and community colleges, and government agencies.
“We are looking for companies and universities who are willing to partner and work together to help turn their regions into centers for high-tech jobs,” Obama said.
Applied Materials manufactures equipment and provides services and software for the advanced semiconductor, flat panel display, and solar photovoltaic manufacturing industries.
According to a White House press release, nearly half-a-million new manufacturing jobs have been added to the U.S. economy in the last three years. In his speech at Applied Materials, Obama called out several large companies that are bringing their manufacturing—and jobs—back to the United States, such as Caterpillar, Ford, and Apple. “There are some good trendlines there, but we’ve got to do everything we can to strengthen that trend,” he said.
The President’s FY2014 budget includes a request for $1 billion to create up to 15 new institutes. However, these next three are being set up through the White House, independent of congressional approval through appropriation.
Two of the institutes will be coordinated by the Department of Defense and one by the Department of Energy. These areas were selected for their commercial potential, applicability to agency missions, and coherence with existing programs such as the Materials Genome Initiative. Full details about the hubs and the government’s other manufacturing activities are available at the Advanced Manufacturing Portal.
They new hubs are (from the White House press release):
Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation (DoD)
Advanced design and manufacturing tools that are digitally integrated and networked with supply chains can lead to ‘factories of the future’ forming an agile U.S. industrial base with significant speed to market advantages. A national institute focusing on the development of novel model-based design methodologies, virtual manufacturing tools, and sensor and robotics based manufacturing networks will accelerate the innovation in digital manufacturing increasing U.S. competitiveness.
Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing (DoD)
Advanced lightweight metals possess mechanical and electrical properties comparable to traditional materials while enabling much lighter components and products. A national institute will make the U.S. more competitive by scaling-up research to accelerate market expansion for products such as wind turbines, medical devices, engines, armored combat vehicles, and airframes, and lead to significant reductions in manufacturing and energy costs.
Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing (DoE)
Wide-bandgap semiconductor-based power electronic devices represent the next major platform beyond the silicon-based devices that have driven major technological advances in our economy over the last several decades. Wide-bandgap technology will enable significantly more compact and efficient power electronic devices for electric vehicles, renewable power interconnection, industrial-scale variable-speed drive motors and a smarter, more flexible grid; in addition to high-performance defense applications (e.g. reducing the size of a sub-station to a suit case).
The president also used the speech to talk about some of his administration’s high school initiatives on workforce development, especially for the high-tech and manufacturing sectors.