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By Jenny Vickers
From the May/June 2013 issue
Between 2000 and 2009, six million U.S. factory jobs vanished. Today, a different picture of manufacturing is emerging. The U.S. is experiencing a reshoring of manufacturing, while innovation and technology are helping to bridge the gap between leading-edge research and product development.
While the U.S. manufacturing revival is certainly not massive, it has been slow and steady. Since January 2010, the U.S. has added 520,000 manufacturing jobs—and according to the Reshoring Initiative, an industry-led group, 50,000 of those have come from overseas firms moving here. Industry analysts say a key reason behind this shift is due to the U.S. edge in automation, robotics and other productivity tools that reduce direct labor expanses, undercutting the overseas advantage of cheap labor. Another is proximity to corporate headquarters—at least, for U.S. companies—and to the rest of the supply chain.
Another vital component to this revival is technological innovation. From the digitization of equipment processes and organizations to three-dimensional (3D) printing (also known as additive manufacturing) to materials with custom-designed properties, advanced manufacturing is helping to drive high-tech innovation, exports and the creation of well-paying jobs.
The Obama Administration has made advancing an innovative manufacturing agenda a major priority. Last year, President Obama announced the creation of the National Network for Manufacturing and Innovation (NNMI), a $1 million proposal to create institutes across the nation that would serve as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence that will help to make the U.S. manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the U.S.
This is good news for several regions across the U.S., which are in the midst of an advanced manufacturing technology revival that could help shape the economy for years to come.
FROM RUST BELT TO TECH BELT— OHIO’S 3D PRINTING INITIATIVE
Long known as a Rust Belt community, Youngstown is now the home to NNMIs first pilot institute, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII).
NAMII was established in Youngstown to research how cutting-edge 3D printing technology can be moved from the research phase to day-to-day use. 3D printing allows businesses to download designs from the Internet and transform the printouts, layer by layer, into three-dimensional physical objects. The applications are seemingly endless. Small firms are creating custom objects and spare parts for everything from toys to artificial limbs, all at a fraction of the cost of traditional manufacturing.
Since the start of the twenty-first century, 3D technology has primarily been used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing in consumer goods, industrial design, dental and medical industries, and engineering, but now NAMII researchers are working to scale up the technology and transition it to the mainstream U.S. manufacturing sector.
“The big question is how can 3D printing change the future of manufacturing in America and how can you scale it up so you can actually produce products in assembly fashion,” said Eric Planey, Vice President for International Business Attraction for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and chair of Ohio’s TechBelt Initiative, which has worked to position the region to accelerate growth of 3D printing.
The TechBelt Initiative competed against other regions to receive $30 million in federal funding for NAMII. The federal grant, plus a $39 million match from the many partners whose joint effort helped to win the project, promises to establish the mega-region as the U.S. leader in 3D printing.
“We’re very happy that last summer the announcement was made that we won the first innovation center,” said Mr. Planey. “We beat Ohio State, MIT and Georgia Tech, which is a big deal for us.”
According to Mr. Planey, the number one reason why Youngstown was picked as the location for the new pilot institute was due to the existing strength of the TechBelt, which has close to 11,000 manufacturing operations in the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh region.
“When the application was submitted the responders immediately told us that our consortium did not feel forced and that they sensed our partnership and track record,” said Mr. Planey. “They felt that the ability for 3D printing to take off and be successful was greater because the lines of communication and working order were already in place.”
The NAMII consortium is led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining and consists of leading research universities like Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve University; world-class companies like Honeywell, Boeing, and IBM; innovative small manufacturers like M7 and ExOne; and community colleges spread across Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
“So now an abandoned furniture warehouse in Youngstown is being converted into an advanced center for manufacturing,” said Mr. Planey. “It’s great to know that Youngstown, which is an old metal bending city, now has access to all the great things that are coming out of this additive manufacturing institute.”
In January 2013, NAMII was named one of the top most innovative economic development initiatives in the U.S. by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and The Rockefeller Foundation. President Obama also mentioned NAMII in his recent State of the Union address:
“There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.”
At the end of March, NAMII announced the recipients of its first round of funding—$4.5 million for seven teams of universities and manufacturers that will soon be working hand-in-hand to develop new tools, new uses and new understanding of 3D printing processes.
One of these winning projects, awarded to Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, links together the minds and assets of Case Western Reserve and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University as well as manufacturing giants Pratt & Whitney (IW 500/24), GE Aviation (IW 500/5) and Lockheed Martin (IW 500/30), among others—all competitors on the traditional market— in order to develop a way to qualify 3D printed parts for aerospace, medical and other highly-regulated fields.
NAMII is the first of what could eventually be 16 advanced manufacturing hubs designed to bring together industry, academia and government to help accelerate innovation and advance emerging manufacturing technologies. This puts a lot of pressure on the institute to make sure it works.
“People are really watching NAMII to make sure it’s successful,” said Mr. Planey. “And because this is new in concept there will be some speed bumps, but overall the impact on the U.S. economy is going to be revolutionary.”
HUDSON VALLEY LEADS A MANUFACTURING REVIVAL
In the Hudson Valley region of New York, which encompasses seven counties that flank both banks of the Hudson River for more than 100 miles north of New York City, manufacturing is experiencing a revival it hasn’t seen in decades.
According to Laurence Gottlieb, CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC), the approach of economic development in the area has changed entirely since the economic downturn.
“For many years, economic development was very location specific,” said Gottlieb. “But now the new focus is on cluster development initiatives to accelerate growth in areas where we felt there were activities going on.”
Three of those areas the HVEDC is focused on are biotechnology, food and beverage, and additive manufacturing.
Since launching the NY Biohud Valley biotech cluster initiative, the region has seen tremendous growth. One company that is reflective of that growth is Regeneron, which just announced it is expanding its corporate headquarters in the Hudson Valley. The project will add two new buildings and another 400 high-skilled employees on top of a significant base of employees they already have in the region.
Regeneron, along with other biotech companies, like Acorda Therapeutics, has really helped to stimulate growth in the region. According to Gottlieb, along with R&D growth, companies are starting to manufacture its products in the same region where they are doing the development, which has “always been the elusive holy grail for biotech in the region.”
The NY Biohud Valley initiative has been so successful that it just landed one of the largest private investments in a biotech firm in the U.S. Just a few weeks ago, Chinese-based Zongyi Group, a diversified business group covering everything from information technology to energy services, announced it is investing $8.6 million into Yonkers-based biotech firm ContraFect. It is hoped the investment will boost funding of programs dedicated to the development and clinical trials for new medicines.
Hudson Valley’s food and beverage industry, anchored by well-known industry names like PepsiCo and Kraft, is another targeted cluster for growth. According to Gottlieb, manufacturing operations are opening up in parts of the Hudson Valley that has not seen product manufacturing in decades.
“Two areas where we are seeing particular growth is in craft brewing and baked goods,” said Gottlieb. “I am meeting with folks who want to create craft breweries in areas of the Hudson Valley that have not seen manufacturing activity in decades. We are seeing it in all four corners of the Hudson Valley so that growth has been incredible.”
In October 2012, Boiceville-based Bread Alone, an organic and whole grain producer of baked goods, announced it is dramatically increasing its manufacturing and distribution capabilities in the Hudson Valley in order to meet the demand for farm-to-table organic food products, which are increasing and flowing into the region on a larger scale.
New York Senator Schumer helped Bread Alone secure a U.S. Department of Agriculture Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan for $4.6 million for the acquisition and renovation of a 26,000-square-foot facility in Lake Katrine. In addition, Bread Alone also worked with HVEDC to secure a $250,000 loan from Hudson River Ventures LLC, a small business investment fund focused on the Hudson Valley.
The latest cluster initiative, which is being launched on May 30, is the Hudson Valley 3D printing initiative. According to Gottlieb, the Hudson Valley’s burgeoning creative arts and design culture make it a perfect location to develop 3D technologies.
“We picked SUNY New Paltz as the center of the hub of our 3D printing initiative because SUNY has a strong creative arts program and burgeoning science and engineering department,” said Gottlieb. “3D printing is the intersection between design and engineering and we believe the Hudson Valley is primed to take advantage of this technology.”
3D printing technology already is being used across the state—Regeneron uses 3D printing to create parts of machines to test out its development process right on the R&D floor, the “Orange County Choppers” use the technology to design motorcycles and Cornell University researchers are using bioprinting to manipulate cells and create replacement body parts. However, where the state will see the greatest amount of impact in 3D printing is in small to mid-size manufacturing operations.
“A lot of manufacturing was sent overseas because it was hard for small to mid-size businesses to do lower quantity orders and if you did it would cost you a fortune,” said Gottlieb. “So what 3D printing allows is that you can locate smaller manufacturing near to where you need the product actually produced at a price point that makes sense. 3D manufacturing is no way in any shape or form near being competitive for large scale manufacturing, but on small to mid-size there is plenty of businesses to be had.”
Right now one of the biggest challenges facing the 3D manufacturing industry is to ensure its workforce is ready for this new type of technology.
“There’s a big skills gap out there and that needs to be addressed,” said Gottlieb. “You can invest millions of
dollars in equipment but if you don’t have a workforce that understands math, science, engineering—all the STEM areas—you are not going to be competitive in today’s workforce.”
In March 2013, Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator for New York, introduced the Made in America Manufacturing Act that would create a competitive program that awards states and regions with funding to support local manufacturers through low-interest loans to build new facilities and upgrade equipment and create job training programs to close the skills gap that has slowed the growth of many manufacturers.
“It’s time to see ‘Made In America’ again starting right here in New York,” said Senator Gillibrand in a press statement. “I believe New York’s great manufacturing communities are well positioned to compete for funding that would help carry out their innovative ideas to spark more growth in high-tech manufacturing sectors, jumpstart new businesses, and create good-paying jobs right here where we need them the most.”
ROLLS-ROYCE’S HIGH-TECH HUB IN VIRGINIA
In Prince County, Virginia, just south of Richmond and adjacent to Rolls-Royce’s new engine component manufacturing plant, a new research facility has opened where scientists and engineers are collaborating on the future of cutting-edge manufacturing technology.
Named the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, or CCAM, the public-private collaborative research center brings together industry and university researchers to work on projects that include making jet engines operate more efficiently and developing better techniques for building precision machinery with calibrations less than the width of a human hair.
“The new CCAM manufacturing research center represents the expertise and passion of our industry members and university partners,” said Dr. Mike Beffel, CCAM Interim President and Executive Director. “With the goal of bridging the gap between leading edge research and product development, CCAM is at the forefront of new manufacturing processes.”
In March 2013, CCAM unveiled the new 62,000 square-foot research facility which features computational and engineering research labs, high bay production space for commercial scale equipment and tools required for research in surface engineering and manufacturing systems.
The building, which has a 16,000-square-foot high bay area, was designed to function like a typical modern factory floor. It is equipped to house and test the latest high-tech manufacturing equipment.
“We refer to it as a sandbox,” said Dr. Barry Johnson, the Senior Associate Dean for the University of Virginia’s (UVA) School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Chairman of the Board of Directors of CCAM. “We can play with the technology but do so in a real environment so that when we prove that something works we know it will work on the factory floor. The purpose is to conduct research where the technology will actually be applied to accelerate the transition of technology into practice.”
According to Dr. Johnson, who has been actively involved in CCAM since its initial concept in 2006, the goal of CCAM is to develop into an advanced manufacturing campus.
“The first building, which sits on 20 acres of land donated by Rolls-Royce to UVA, is designed to be expanded and thus can double its size,” said Dr. Johnson. “We have also mapped out two additional buildings , one would be an additional research space and the other would be a workforce academy to support our workforce development program. The vision is that it’s going to grow.”
Research is currently underway in the areas of surface engineering and new manufacturing systems. Approximately 50 student interns from CCAM’s participating universities—Virginia State University, UVA and Virginia Tech—work alongside CCAM researchers and industry members, including Canon, Chromalloy, Newport News Shipbuilding, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant, Siemens and Sulzer Metco, to conduct applied research and commercialization.
“The word applied is really important,” said Dr. Johnson. “We are focused on what is called a Valley of Death where new ideas that come out of research initiatives die because they can’t be transitioned to applications and commercial solutions. We are focused on building that pipeline of new technologies that evolve from the first idea all the way into a commercial solution. We believe very strongly the best way for that to happen is to have industry, government and academic partners at the same table working together for solutions (and creating) them.”
CCAM is one of a growing number of similar R&D centers in the U.S. that represent a paradigm shift in how manufacturing research is conducted, said Liz Povar, Vice-President of Business Expansion for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
“It’s become clear to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, that we could and should more effectively work with our universities to market their capabilities to existing and new businesses in a way that is more streamlined than we had previously done,” said Povar. “We have a number of other institutes in Virginia that are focused on providing collaborative research that is industry led and that model is very unique to Virginia.”
Povar noted other similar collaborative research centers have been developed in Virginia such as the Center for Coatings Application, Research, and Education (C-CARE) in South Boston, VA; the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics Systems in Prince George, VA; and the National Institute for Aerospace in Hampton, VA.
“It’s an exciting model to watch because each entity is different in terms of their evolution and current capabilities, but all of them are connecting the talent and the knowledge of our university system with the businesses that want to grow here,” said Povar. “It’s an exciting approach—one that is really paying dividends for us.”