It’s been seven years since the founding of America Makes. Driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM), America Makes is the national accelerator for additive manufacturing (AM) and the first of eight Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MIIs) established and program managed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as public-private partnerships. America Makes is also a member of the Manufacturing USA (MFG USA) network, which seeks to secure U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing.
While its undeniable that the contributions the Institute has made to the AM industry and the impact it has had on the local Youngstown area and Mahoning Valley region are significant, America Makes Executive Director John Wilczynski is inspired by what the future holds for the Institute and the overall U.S. manufacturing industry.
“This is a really exciting time for the Institute as we have a great deal of learnings and achievements from the last seven years,” said Mr. Wilczynski. “We are acutely aware of the needs of our industry from commercial and defense sectors. We are grateful for all of the support from the DoD, Air Force Research Laboratory, and other government stakeholders. As the pilot Institute, we have proved that the public-private collaborative model is effective and important to the ongoing economic success of U.S. manufacturing industry. We transitioned from the initial start-up phase and then onto an incredibly driven project execution phase to where we are today—promoting and leading innovation.
“Presently, we are at a point where we can further leverage our role as a convener, coordinator, and catalyzer. We will continue to execute research and development projects, spur the transition of more technology commercialization, and champion education and workforce development initiatives while ensuring the ongoing sustainability of the Institute. As we move forward, we will also work to further develop regional ecosystems around our Satellite Center model and become the recognized voice of our industry.”
According to a summer 2018 global manufacturing report from the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions, supports the industry and economic contributions of MIIs like America Makes, indicating that “Disruptive technologies like additive manufacturing, 3D-printing, advanced robotics, and the utilization of the Internet of Things and Big Data are revolutionizing U.S. manufacturing.” Moreover, the creation of programs like the MFG USA Institutes “represent some of the biggest drivers in this advanced technology development.”
Within the U.S. manufacturing economy, findings from the Wohlers Report 2019 from Wohlers Associates, Inc., reveal that the AM industry, consisting of all AM products and services worldwide, was worth $9.8 billion in 2018, up 33.6% from 2017.
Additionally, Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates indicates that this significant growth increase is primarily due in large part to gains in the following areas:
–Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM)
–Education and training
–Post-processing and post-process automation
–Custom products and low-volume manufacturing
–Partnerships and collaborations
–Viable supply chains
–Data, security, and interconnectivity
–Investment in applications
–Corporate centers of excellence
The areas above that realized gains are many of the areas that America Makes and its membership community is involved in as identified by the Institute’s AM Technology and AM Workforce & Education Roadmaps.
“Our goal with the development of these Roadmaps was to collectively target those areas that represent the greatest need, demonstrate the greatest impact, and show the most promise for commercialization of AM technologies,” said Mr. Wilczynski. “With the Technology Roadmap, for example, we determined that the five technical areas with the greatest need were design, material, process, value chain, and AM genome, in which all our R&D projects support in order to advance our industry.
“With additional funding from the U.S. Army, Department of the Navy, U.S. Air Force, and Defense Logistics Agency and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, America Makes, together with Deloitte, worked in tandem with the DoD to create an integrated DoD AM Roadmap,” added Mr. Wilczynski. “This provides a solid framework for focusing any desired collaboration and coordination of the DoD’s activities in AM to systematically and efficiently mature the technology for multiple DoD applications, ensuring we meet the critical needs of our defense partners.”
Today, America Makes is a recognized hub of advanced manufacturing innovation with 88 AM R&D projects executed. It has evolved from a membership community of 65 founding organizations to more than 225. America Makes worked with the American National Standards Institute on the creation and publication of the first Standardization Roadmap for AM. The Institute has three Satellite Centers, expanding its geographic reach. America Makes entered into strategic partnership with two leading media organizations, Digital Engineering and The TCT Group, to help raise greater awareness among its targeted audience of the mission and impact of America Makes.
On a local level, the impact America Makes has made in Youngstown is substantial. Working with founding members, the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) and Youngstown State University (YSU), America Makes has helped reshaped Youngstown’s identity from a town struggling for decades after the collapse of the steel industry to one enjoying a revitalization from advanced manufacturing and technology innovation. Recently, Youngstown’s story was aptly captured in the NIST video, Rethinking Manufacturing. It is the story of two young individuals who are on the cutting edge of a new American manufacturing revolution. With support from America Makes, YBI, and YSU, these entrepreneurs and their peers are rethinking manufacturing, rethinking career choices, and rethinking the very idea of how we build and revitalize communities like Youngstown.
With the AM industry poised to be worth more than $15.8 billion in 2020, according to the Wohlers Report 2019, America Makes and its membership community will continue to be a driving force in the acceleration, commercialization, and adoption of AM technologies.