New public-private partnership aims to help revitalize manufacturing

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State will be part of a new public-private partnership aimed at revitalizing American manufacturing and encouraging companies to invest in the United States. The new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), is a consortium of research universities, community colleges and non-profit organizations from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and manufacturing firms nationwide.

The consortium, selected through a competitive process led by the Department of Defense, will receive an initial $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from consortium members.

"Pennsylvania and Ohio have long been world leaders in manufacturing," said Henry C. Foley, Penn State Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. "Clean and efficient additive manufacturing represents the future of the industry. The University's research strengths in manufacturing and materials science, and our track record of performance in partnerships with industry, government agencies, and other colleges and universities helped our team win. The institute will help ensure that the Pennsylvania-Ohio region remains an international headquarters for manufacturing technology and jobs in the twenty-first century and beyond."

In March, the Obama administration called on Congress to approve a plan to invest $1 billion to catalyze a national network of up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes around the country that would serve as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which also received the support of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, is a pilot institute to serve as a proof-of concept of that plan.

Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, is a new way of making products and components from a digital model. It has implications for a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive and metals manufacturing. Like an office printer that puts 2-D digital files on a piece of paper, a 3-D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of metal, plastic, ceramic or other materials one after another using a digital blueprint until the exact component required has been created.

As a pilot institute, NAMII will bridge the gap between basic research and product development for additive manufacturing, provide shared assets to help companies, particularly small manufacturers, access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment and create an environment to educate and train workers in advanced additive manufacturing skills.

The consortium recognizes that in advancing additive manufacturing technologies to commercialization, this project must also incubate a new model of industry-led collaboration with universities -- a model that can be replicated as part of the broader commitment to revitalizing U.S. manufacturing. In addition, the consortium is committed to linking innovation and technology commercialization to workforce development. Building the skills needed to grow additive manufacturing jobs and businesses in the U.S. will be embedded in all phases of the institute's operations so that training for a wide range of the jobs of the future emerge in tandem with new product and process innovations.

The Department of Defense envisions customizing parts on site for operational systems that would otherwise be expensive to make or ship. The Department of Energy anticipates that additive processes would be able to save more than 50 percent energy use compared to today's "subtractive" manufacturing processes.

NAMII is led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (www.ncdmm.org), based in Latrobe, and includes 40 private companies, nine research universities including Penn State and its affiliated Pennsylvania College of Technology, four community colleges and 11 trade associations and other nonprofit organizations.

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Last Updated October 12, 2012