U.S. Innovation Hubs: Inventing the Future

By Jenny Vickers
From the September/October 2015 Issue

The Obama Administration is moving forward with an aggressive federally funded program, first announced by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address, to build collaborative manufacturing innovation hubs in emerging growth sectors throughout the country.

The $1-billion investment to create the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) is comprised of regional hubs—public-private partnerships called Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation—that share common goals, but with each focused on the development of a different 21st century technology.

“The NNMI institutes help spur advanced technologies critical to keeping America innovative and competitive in the global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to the Institute during her latest visit to America Makes, the first innovation institute established in Youngstown, OH. “Communities all over the country are clamoring for them because they represent a dynamic tool for spurring U.S. economic growth. The type of collaborative, cutting-edge technologies that the NNMI promotes is essential to creating high-quality jobs and opportunity here at home.”

NNMI currently has seven institutes, with bids for two additional institutions still to be awarded. The administration hopes to eventually establish a network of 15 institutes across the country during its tenure in office.

The rapid expansion of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) was a centerpiece of President Obama’s 2013 SOTY address. “Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing…there are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend,” Obama said. “[In 2012], 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 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns…and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has spearheaded the creation of the innovation institutes. “The NNMI institutes help spur advanced technologies critical to keeping America innovative and competitive in the global economy,” Pritzker said during her latest visit to Youngstown’s America Makes, the first innovation institute. “Communities all over the country are clamoring for them because they represent a dynamic tool for spurring U.S. economic growth. The type of collaborative, cutting-edge technologies that the NNMI promotes is essential to creating high-quality jobs here at home.”

Vice President Biden recently presided over the launch ceremonies for a new national manufacturing innovation hub, the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) in Rochester, NY. (Credit: Brandon Vick, University Communications, Rochester.edu)

NNMI currently has six institutes, with three additional institutions under competition. The administration hopes to eventually establish a network of 45 institutes across the country.

“The Institutes provide education and training opportunities to build and enhance the skills of the American manufacturing workforce,” said Mark J. Shuart, PhD, R&D Facilities Program Manager, Advanced Manufacturing Office, EERE, Department of Energy.

On August 28th, the Obama Administration announced the latest institute— the only institute located on the West Coast—the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Institute based in San Jose, California.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Institute will invest $171 million in advancing next-generation flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing, fostering American leadership in manufacturing technologies from smart bandages to self-monitoring weapons systems to wearable devices.

The winning consortium unites major electronics and semiconductor companies like Applied Materials, Apple, United Technologies, Hewlett Packard and Qualcomm with end users like Boeing, General Motors, the Cleveland Clinic, Corning and Motorola that can embed these flexible, bendable electronics into everything from medical devices to supersonic jets while also building on the cutting-edge research underway at partner universities such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard and MIT.

With this seventh manufacturing innovation institute, the Administration has invested over $500 million matched by over $1 billion in non-federal funds. In this cover story, Business Facilities unveils the details of each institute and how this growing network of innovation hubs is bringing government, industry and academic partners together to leverage their resources and nurture and commercialize manufacturing innovation, creating more high-tech jobs in the U.S.


In July 2015, the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) was launched in Rochester, NY. The institute will help establish the region as a national hub for producing next generation integrated photonics, a light science with the potential to transform communications, medicine and national defense, and could create thousands of jobs.

Vice President Biden (third from left) and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) tour SUNY’s Poly Canal Ponds in Rochester during the launch for AIM Photonics, which has been awarded a $110-million funding grant from the U.S. Department of Defense as the latest hub in the Obama Administrations’ National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. (Credit: Shawn Dowd/Democrat)

“This is historic,” said University of Rochester President and CEO Joel Seligman during a press conference to announce the new institute. “AIM Photonics will provide and empower the absolute best talent, sustainable relationships and infrastructure required to capture and sustain U.S. global leadership in this critical industry.”

Western New York already has about 100 companies focused on optics and photonics. Their work ranges from designing lenses for the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto, to lasers and optical systems used in IMAX theaters.

The institute will bring together government, industry and academia to further advance photonics research and its commercial uses. The project will be funded in part by $110 million from the U.S. defense department, with an additional $500 million in state and private investment.

The integrated photonics manufacturing institute is envisioned as a photonics “ecosystem” that includes domestic foundry access, automated packaging, assembly and workforce development.

“The photonics center we are now bringing to Rochester will harness the power of the Defense Department and the prowess of Rochester’s 24,000 employee-strong photonics industry and focus it like a laser beam to launch new industries, technologies and jobs,” said Senator Charles Schumer during the announcement.

Led by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York (RF SUNY), the photonics institute involves a consortium of 124 partners, including 55 companies, across 20 states. Among the private-sector partners are big-hitters like IBM, GE, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, alongside the likes of Chiral Photonics, Optimax and TeraDiode. Other partners include key locations for photonics development, including the University of Rochester, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Arizona’s (UA) College of Optical Sciences (OSC) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Integrated photonics—devices that bring together multiple optics-based functions, often on an integrated circuit—is expected to revolutionize the carrying capacity of Internet networks, enhance medical technology and improve imaging-sensing capabilities for national defense and security.

The U.S. has been a world leader in developing photonics technology for the past century. Defense applications and technologies encompass night vision systems, satellite surveillance systems, infrared, flexible displays, sensors, detectors, data communications and lasers.

“AIM Photonics will leverage the capabilities of leading corporate partners, academic institutions and a vibrant community of small and medium enterprises in Rochester to enable a new manufacturing base critical to the needs of our nation and the Air Force,” said Rob Clark, dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the University’s senior vice president for research. Clark will serve as chairman of the nonprofit institute’s board of directors.

Rochester is the oldest and largest hub for photonics manufacturing in the U.S. Long-time home of optical technology pioneer Eastman Kodak, photonics companies such as Harris Corporation, Sydor Optics and Optimax have all recently opened or expanded operations in the region.

Initial press reports suggested the effort would hire up to 100 scientists and others as core staff, and would gear up for projects within five months. They said early work would be done at an electronics foundry at the SUNY Polytechnic Nanotech Complex in Albany run by Michael Liehr, who is now the CEO of AIM Photonics, as well as the SUNY Polytechnic facility in Greece, NY.

More than $130 million of the awarded funds will be invested in the Rochester region. Duncan Moore, the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering and vice provost for entrepreneurship, who played a key role in coordinating the winning proposal, says AIM Photonics is “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help Rochester’s optics, photonics and imaging industry become a national hub for producing next generation integrated photonics devices.”


The Lightweight Innovation for Tomorrow (LIFT) institute, which opened in Detroit in January 2015, will be used as a regional manufacturing hub to transfer innovative lightweight metals from research labs into cars, airplanes and ships for commercial and military applications.

This huge die recently was installed in an advanced metal-stamping unit at the Lightweight Innovation for Tomorrow (LIFT) Institute in Michigan. (Credit: LIFT)

Lightweight metals are increasingly important to the transportation manufacturing sectors since lighter vehicles and vessels have better performance, use less fuel and can carry larger loads and travel the same distance at lower cost and with fewer carbon emissions.

LIFT’s new 107,000-square-foot building is located in Corktown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Detroit and an area undergoing major redevelopment with new restaurants, bars and industry opening up in buildings that long sat empty. The institute is expected to play a key role in the region’s revival.

“Detroit is a key industrial base, intensely populated with companies that are heavily dependent upon lightweight metals in their products,” said Bob Kratzenberg, Operations Manager of LIFT. “We thought it best to focus our efforts in a region that was as economically challenged as Detroit is, but on the rebound. Our goal is to help play a role in the revival of the area.”

LIFT established its headquarters in Detroit because it is the epicenter of the largest concentration of automotive R&D centers in the world. The location also places the center along I-75, an industrial corridor that connects states in which nearly half of America’s workforce is located. LIFT will directly serve a five-state region (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee), although its work is national in scope.

“Our primary focus areas include manufacturing technology development, SME engagement and workforce and education,” said Kratzenberg. “Our goal is to accelerate the development and application of innovative lightweight metal production and component manufacturing technologies to benefit the U.S. transportation, aerospace and defense market sectors. That’s our mission and where we’ll focus our activity.”

LIFT’s scope of activity will include more than $60 million in technology projects within five years, having an impact on the supply chain of approximately 10,000 jobs in metal stamping, metalworking, machining and casting industries. LIFT also will facilitate technology commercialization through improvements in manufacturing processes and working with incubators to assist startups bringing new technologies to market.

“One of the critical aspects of the program is the development of a next generation workforce,” said Kratzenberg. “We will work in conjunction with the five-state regional representation to develop a workforce in parallel to the lightweight metal technologies that are developed such as novel thermal mechanical processing for assured properties in large titanium structures and the advances in the joining of dissimilar metals such as steel to aluminum.”

LIFT is led by University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and EWI, an independent research development organization based in Columbus, Ohio and involves more than 100 companies, universities, non-profit research institutions and workforce development intermediaries from around the country.

“We were just so excited when this area was chosen,” said Maureen Krauss, Vice President of Business Attraction for the Detroit Chamber. “Because of our long history in manufacturing and technology innovations a lot of the work has already been done. It is a complement to what already occurs here.”

LIFT was awarded a five-year $160 million program ($70 million in federal funding and $90 million member organization cost share) in February 2014 to establish the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII)—which has since been rebranded as LIFT.

Since the award contract, LIFT membership has grown to a total of 208 members representing 24 states. Members of LIFT include industrial companies such as Boeing, GE and Alcoa; academic and research partners Michigan Tech, Case Western and Johns Hopkins; small and medium manufacturers AEM and Henrob; startups Airflow Sciences Corporation and Fabrisonic, and workforce and education partners Macomb Community College and IVY Tech Community College, just to name a few.

“Manufacturing is making a come-back in Detroit,” said Kratzenberg. “You’re seeing more and more companies, both U.S. and international seeking to centralize their manufacturing operations in this region to take advantage of the prominent role of the transportation industry. GM is headquartered downtown, Ford in Dearborn, and when you start to draw circles out from the city you see the supply base fill in. So that’s been a big part of the growth of the city and the institute will now play a role in this revival.”

From 2009 to 2013, Detroit’s IT industry grew by over 5,000 jobs and the region currently leads the nation in connected vehicle technology. Detroit’s auto industry alone has produced 1 new patent a day for the past 50 years.

“That’s a game changer when it comes to where this innovation comes from,” said Krauss. “It’s already here. And now with the institute in our backyard we’ll be able to build upon that even more.”


In January 2014, President Obama visited Raleigh to announce the PowerAmerica Institute—a $140-million manufacturing consortium led by NC State University that will develop next-generation, energy efficient power electronics and devices. The consortium was given initial funding of $70 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which was matched by $70 million from the state, universities and industry partners, spread over five years.

Just one year later, retired U.S. Army Major General Nick Justice was named the new Executive Director of PowerAmerica. During a 41-year career in the army, Justice’s roles included command of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. His service includes tours of duty in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The goal of PowerAmerica is to drive down the costs of and build America’s manufacturing leadership in wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor-based power electronics,” said Justice. “WBG semiconductor technology has the potential to reshape the American energy economy by increasing efficiency to almost everything that uses electronics, from industrial motors and household appliances to military satellites.”

There are few global challenges greater than the search for less costly, more efficient energy solutions. Power electronic devices are projected to be incorporated into 80 percent of all electrical energy systems by 2030, according to the DOE.

“WBG semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures, frequencies and voltages than today’s power electronics, which will help cut power losses in half for electricity conversion compared to current technology,” said Justice. “That in turn means that power electronics can be smaller and more reliable because they need fewer semiconductor chips.”

WBG technology also could improve the efficiency of hybrid and electric vehicles, cut costs in data centers and reduce energy use in the nation’s power grid, according to the DOE.

PowerAmerica’s location on NC State’s Centennial Campus places it in close proximity to the Research Triangle Park (RTP), one of the most vibrant high-tech R&D corridors in the U.S. RTP, located near Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, is home to over 190 companies employing 50,000 workers and 10,000 contractors, including the second largest IBM operation in the world, GlaxoSmithKline’s largest R&D center and Cisco Systems’ campus with 4,000 employees, making it the third highest concentration of its employees in the U.S. outside of its Silicon Valley corporate headquarters.

“NC State has an incredible history in electronics, especially in power,” said Justice. “The industry that surrounds us and companies that have spun out of this university already define our success. I think the federal government and Department of Energy saw this as a good place to try to carry things even further and accelerate this technology and its economic impacts.”

PowerAmerica membership taps into the research expertise of six leading universities in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Arizona, New York and California and companies in 10 states including local companies Cree and ABB. ABB is a Swiss energy conglomerate with 150,000 employees worldwide with its U.S. research and development center on Centennial Campus. Cree has a long history in Silicon Carbide and Gallium Nitride wide band gap semiconductors and is spinning out its power and Radio frequency division into a new company called Wolfspeed that will work with PowerAmerica on high voltage, high frequency, energy efficient power devices.

“Cree was a spin out of NC State and is doing a lot in the LED lighting world,” said Justice. “They’re the guys that powered the Superbowl this past January with LED lighting, which saves a tremendous amount of money. They’ve been very successful in creating a major company and global competitor around the world and now are creating their own company out of that. They’re reshaping the way we light homes and offices across the nation.”

As the only university leading two active National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Centers, NC State has a proven track record of assembling teams to confront global challenges. In 2008 the university launched the FREEDM Systems Center, the predecessor for PowerAmerica, to lead the modernization of the U.S. power grid.

“We built the electric grid in the mid-30s before World War II and now it’s time to modernize it,” said Justice. “Technology exists that can make it much more reliable and efficient. I don’t know of another lab that can match FREEDM for capabilities and access to the whole aspect of the power grid.”

Justice says education is one of the biggest components of the initiative and plans are in the works to build a teaching manufacturing line where engineering students from NC State can actually build things before going to industry.

“We’re looking at space now to locate the teaching manufacturing line, and that’s exciting if you’re in a school that has around 11,000 engineering students in it,” said Justice. “Just think of what it means to put students in a space and say, “here are the problems we have,” and they try to solve them.”

PowerAmerica will establish a comprehensive education and workforce development program to create a pipeline of talent ready to support the WBG semiconductor industry’s needs.

“I can’t wait until we’re fully up and running,” said Justice. “There’s a multiplying factor that we haven’t even discussed yet. There’s going to be synergies that occur across multiple institutes. For example, using power electronics in mechanical things in additive manufacturing—think of the synergies of those two alone. All of these institutes add an element of the final equation of the best products out on the market.”


Chicago is the new home of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), which will address the life cycle of digital data interchanged through design, engineering and manufacturing.

In February 2014, UI Labs, a nonprofit research and development group led by the University of Illinois, was awarded $70 million to fund the DMDII. The institute will leverage $250 million in commitments from leading industry partners including Council members General Electric, John Deere, Procter & Gamble and Lockheed Martin, as well as other academia, government and community partners to form a $320 million institute.

“Advanced manufacturing is a competitive game-changer, bringing our nation’s research, engineering and production communities together in new and exciting ways,” said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer. “Specifically, the combination of advanced materials, high performance computing resources, modeling and simulation tools, and additive manufacturing practices is allowing large and small enterprises alike to design and build otherwise impossibly complex shapes and systems while significantly reducing manufacturing costs and cycle times.”

The DMDI Institute will address the life cycle of digital data interchanged among myriad design, engineering, manufacturing and maintenance systems, and flowing across a networked supply chain. Digital design and manufacturing is often referred to as “smart manufacturing” or “Industrie 4.0.”

The National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium is one of the partners that will help firms to leverage high performance computing (HPC) for modeling, simulation and analysis (MS&A). This capability helps manufacturers to design, test and build prototype products or components much more rapidly—enabling them to bring innovations to market more quickly and less expensively.

In July 2015, DMDII announced the public kickoff of its open source software project, the Digital Manufacturing Commons (DMC), DMDII-15-16. The DMC is a software platform that puts design, modeling and simulation tools in reach of collaborative teams of all sizes, and allows designs to be “compiled” and tested like software projects before being prototyped in the physical world.

If it gets traction, the software could open up the rapidly growing “digital manufacturing” space to allow even the smallest maker teams to partner with the largest manufacturing and distribution companies, allowing gadget-makers to scale into global players.

“The widespread availability of design and modeling tools will encourage a new wave of innovation and creativity as the number of people who participate in the marketplace increases,” said Dr. Joe Salvo, manager of the Complex Systems Laboratory at GE Global Research, who leads the DMC project. “We believe that the unprecedented access to powerful software tools, models and the means of production will serve to democratize the entire manufacturing process.”

DMDII announced the availability of up to $2 million in project funding to develop open software applications that can interact with the DMC. This funding is available to teams, entrepreneurs and technologists proposing innovative ideas for manufacturing software solutions.

“Online collaboration between designers and makers creates significant value for manufacturing businesses, by reducing product development costs and increasing speed of bringing new products to market,” said William P. King the chief technology officer at DMDII and the Andersen Chair in Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The public kickoff is an open workshop on September 23, 2015 at UI LABS where participants will learn about the technology behind the DMC and will be introduced to the DMC software development kit. DMDII plans to fund about 20 project teams who will develop open source software applications beginning in January 2016. Proposals are due in November and projects are expected to last about one year, generating software applications that benefit manufacturing businesses.


The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a $259 million project to develop East Tennessee into an advanced manufacturing hub, was launched in Knoxville in June 2015. The focus of the institute will be on accelerating the use of composite materials, especially in transportation and energy applications, spurring the growth of high-paying jobs in East Tennessee and nationally.

Composites, which offer advantages in strength, weight savings and other factors compared to traditional materials, are seeing increased use in automobiles, aircraft, wind turbines, compressed gas storage and other applications. In 2010, more than 234,550 jobs were posted for composite-related positions nationally and the number has doubled since then, according to IACMI data.

The 62,000-square-foot institute, which is slated to open in mid-2016, is funded by a federal commitment of $70 million and $189 million pledged by industry, state economic development agencies and universities.

In August 2015, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker toured the institute’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Knoxville. The facility built a car with its 3D printing technology and will help build the auto industry of the future with a focus in East Tennessee.

The 3D printers will allow cars to be made in small facilities that can tailor the vehicles to the tastes of individual customers. Knoxville-based Local Motors already is working along those lines. Rather than being built in a few large assembly plants, cars will be built in hundreds of small facilities across the nation.

“What impressed me most about this facility is the collaboration that’s going on and the enthusiasm that you see from scientists working side by side with the private sector to create new products or to reinvent the existing products that we have today,” said Secretary Pritzker about the tour.

IACMI is a consortium of 123 companies and organizations working across six core partner states: Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. The collaboration is led by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and includes the Indiana-based Design, Modeling & Simulation Enabling Technology Center, which is led by R. Byron Pipes, the John Leighton Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Purdue, along with universities, manufacturers, state and local government agencies, and national laboratories such as fellow founding partner ORNL. Day-to-day operations will be managed by a new not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established by the UT Research Foundation and located in Knoxville.

IACMI is a consortium of 123 companies and organizations in six states, including this 105,000-square-foot Indiana facility that will house the Purdue Research Foundation offices, provide space for up to 26 companies and support 275 jobs. (Credit: Purdue University/Andrew Hancock)

On the industry side, members include Volkswagen, Ford Motor Company, Dow Chemical, DowAksa, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Dassault Systèmes Americas Corp, the Strongwell Corporation and Local Motors, among others.

IACMI will be housed at Purdue Research Foundation, a recognized leader in composite materials.

“The research that will be carried out in this new facility will advance this important technology for the new industries developing in Indiana,” said R. Byron Pipes, the John Leighton Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Purdue and director for the institute. “Advanced composite materials have broad, proven applications because of their lightweight properties and unusually high stiffness and strength. The Boeing 787 commercial airplane is a wonderful example of what this technology can achieve.”

The institute will be working with materials that will have very high impact in many industries such as aerospace, aviation, automotive, energy and sporting equipment. Leaders of the project expect it to be a magnet for private manufacturers that wish to locate near this unique capability.

“The Purdue Research Park supports startups and established companies that have an affiliation with Purdue University, and the construction of the new facility expands the park’s role even more because of the collaborative opportunity it provides for Purdue innovators,” said Dan Hasler, president of Purdue Research Foundation.


The first U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Institute was founded in Youngstown, Ohio in 2012 to help advance and accelerate the U.S. 3D printing industry, also known as additive manufacturing. America Makes, which is housed at the Youngstown Business Incubator and operated by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) located in the Pittsburgh region, consists of more than 140 manufacturers, small- and medium-sized enterprises, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

America Makes is at the epicenter of a fast-growing 3D printing technology hub known at the Tech Belt, a region stretching from Northeast Ohio to Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. At the heart of the corridor is the Youngstown Business Incubator, the No. 1 university-associated incubator in the world.

“The incubator has led to the creation of hundreds of high-tech jobs that have helped breathe life into a downtown that was once on life support,” said Guy C. Coviello, Vice President of Government Affairs and Media for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber.

Also located within the corridor are Youngstown State University, home of a state-of-the-art materials science program, and the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, which is working towards advancements in energy storage.

“I think the Obama Administration picked Youngstown to be the location of the first U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Institute in great part because of the advances already being undertaken at Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator,” said Coviello. “I think America Makes is a natural fit.”

The Youngstown institute works in collaboration to reduce the cost of 3D printing, connect small businesses with new opportunities and train U.S. workers to master 3D printing technology.

“3D Printing has the potential to influence nearly every segment of manufacturing,” said Scott Deutsch, Manager, Communications and Special Programs for NCDMM and America Makes. “From end-use products, to mass customization, to unique one-off medical products, to tooling and fissuring used in manufacturing production, this exciting technology is providing cost- and time-saving, energy-reduction, and quality improvements in many areas.”

Recent successes include launching The America Makes Capabilities Database, a searchable, online directory that provides information regarding the additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities of each America Makes member organization; and Youngstown State University’s new Launch Lab, where engineering students are designing and creating prototypes to make hard-to-find airplane parts for the Air Force Research Lab. Once a prototype part is created, the students are using 3D printing technology to create tooling so the part can be manufactured in quantity.

On August 7, Commerce Secretary Pritzker participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of America Makes’ first Satellite Center, located within The University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP’s) renowned W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

UTEP’s Keck Center is leading an America Makes member team on a $2.2-million program to further 3D printing technologies for rapid manufacturing of aerospace systems. (Credit: Purdue University/Andrew Hancock)

“By establishing our first Satellite Center at UTEP, America Makes marks a new level of national reach for the institute,” said Ralph Resnick, Founding Director of America Makes and President and Executive Director of NCDMM at the opening. “It also demonstrates the synergies between America Makes and UTEP’s Keck Center as both of our organizations are dedicated to accelerating the adoption of additive manufacturing and 3D printing technologies to increase our nation’s global manufacturing competitiveness.”

Currently, UTEP’s Keck Center is leading two America Makes member teams on applied research and development projects, totaling $2M in funding. The first Keck Center led project team is comprised of the University of New Mexico, Youngstown State University, the Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., rp+m, Inc. and Stratasys. The project team seeks to further 3D printing technologies for rapid manufacturing of aerospace systems.

The second Keck Center led project team is comprised of Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell and Draper Laboratory. The goal of the project is to leverage the learnings from the first project and apply them toward the development and the deployment of next-generation additive manufacturing technologies into a low-cost, industrial multi3D system for 3D electronics manufacturing.

Founded in 2001 as part of a $1 million grant by the W.M. Keck Foundation, UTEP’s Keck Center is a lab like no other. Led by Director and Founder Dr. Wicker, the Keck Center features a 13,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility with more than 50 additive manufacturing machines and more than 50 involved faculty, staff, students and researchers with multiple successful national and international collaborations.

The lab showcases a unique blend of additive manufacturing equipment and facilities to perform fundamental research, allowing for trailblazing discoveries to be made in limitless arenas of science including 3D printed electronics, airplanes and satellite components, human augmentation, biomedical implants and future energy systems.

“The institute’s work is truly revolutionary,” said Coviello. “Hearing President Obama occasionally reference Youngstown because of the institute, and occasionally having dignitaries—whether the president or, like last week the commerce secretary—visit our region brings favorable attention. Those references and visits have been because of the institute and its work. I think it has also had an impact on getting others in the region to think a little differently to figure out how to take advantage of having America Makes in our back yard. We’re seeing the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and Youngstown State University look at new areas of research and development.”