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Building an American Economy to Last: American Competiveness in Manufacturing

August 16, 2012 - 9:20am

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In his latest State of the Union Address, President Obama outlined a Blueprint for an American Economy Built to Last -- an economy built on American manufacturing competiveness, energy, workforce, and values. 

The Energy Department is working aggressively to support these pillars of the new American economy through its efforts to help develop America’s vast energy resources, from wind and solar to coal and natural gas. But did you know the Energy Department is also helping to make America’s manufacturers more competitive in the global marketplace?  

Today, the Obama Administration announced the selection of the first public-private pilot institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio, to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process to receive an initial investment of $30 million in federal funding and matched by $40 million from the winning consortium of manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania ‘Tech Belt.’

The NAMII will help the U.S. fully harness the innovation infrastructure needed to support additive manufacturing technology and products. Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, is a new way of making products and components from a digital model. Like an office printer that puts 2D digital files on a piece of paper, a 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material one after another -- only where required -- using a digital blueprint until the exact component has been created.  

The Department has already begun to support additive manufacturing technology through Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. Working directly with process equipment suppliers, ORNL is identifying critical equipment and advancements to establish additive manufacturing as a mainstream process and help revolutionize the way products are designed and built. 

By eliminating production steps and using substantially less material, ‘additive’ processes could be able to reduce waste and save more than 50 percent of energy compared to today’s ‘subtractive’ manufacturing processes, and reduce material costs by up to 90 percent. The use of additive manufacturing can potentially benefit a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, biomedical, consumer products, and metals manufacturing. This is good news for the American economy, as additive manufacturing could bring outsourced manufacturing back to the U.S. and create new jobs.

Since February 2010, America’s manufacturers have added 532,000 jobs, the strongest job growth for any 30-month period since June 1989. Companies are also increasingly choosing to invest in the U.S. and bringing jobs back. By taking steps to support the NAMII and additive manufacturing, the Department and Administration are building on this momentum and moving towards an American economy that is truly ‘Built to Last.’

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