HARDIN VALLEY—The Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is part of a national effort to keep the United States on the cutting edge of research and manufacturing, a federal official said Thursday.
One-third of economic growth comes from innovations, and the United States must continue making new developments, said Penny Pritzker, U.S. commerce secretary.
“Research and manufacturing is not nice to have,” Pritzker said. “It’s a need to have.”
Pritzker toured the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility on Cherahala Boulevard in Hardin Valley on Thursday. It’s part of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, which was announced by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a trip to East Tennessee in January.
“We’re already seeing signs of success,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker’s visit last week was part of a two-day tour of the institutes that make up the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The NNMI now has six institutes, and three more are being formed.
Pritzker said there is “incredible demand for additional hubs.”
What impressed her most during her Knoxville tour, which also included a stop at the National Transportation Research Center at ORNL, was the collaboration between scientists and industry.
“This is what will keep us a step ahead,” Pritzker said.
The Manufacturing Demonstration Facility opened in 2012. The research conducted there is primarily in additive manufacturing in polymers and metals, said Ryan Dehoff, MDF group leader of deposition science and technology.
Additive manufacturing is the process used to build something one layer at a time. One of the most well-known examples is the Shelby Cobra car 3-D printed on a large-scale polymer printer at the MDF. Dehoff called the car an “ORNL lab on wheels.”
The Manufacturing Demonstration Facility uses a broad range of technologies to work on a variety of materials, including metals, polymers including plastics and composites, and ceramics.
Potential uses include parts and tooling for the aerospace, automotive, and machine and equipment manufacturing industries.
“When we make the best investment, we lead the world,” said U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge.
Pritzker said Congress passed the Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation, or RAMI, Act at the end of last year. That bipartisan legislation created the new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.
In a press release in December, Pritzker said the legislation authorizes the establishment of a network of up to 15 regional institutes across the country, “each focused on a unique technology, material, or process relevant to advanced manufacturing.
“The RAMI Act will also encourage partnership and regional collaboration between communities, the private sector, academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and needed supply chains in order to bring ideas from the lab to market more quickly,” Pritzker said.
Besides Pritzker and Fleischmann, other federal, state, and local officials and representatives of the University of Tennessee attended Thursday’s tour, including Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and ORNL Director Thom Mason. The University of Tennessee is a key strategic partner of IACMI and led the proposal efforts with ORNL.
In December, Pritzker said the manufacturing sector has created more than 700,000 jobs since the end of the recession and currently supports more than 16 million U.S. jobs in its supply chains.
She planned two other stops on her NNMI institute tour:
- America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio, focused on helping the United States grow capabilities and strength in 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
- Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago, focused on digital manufacturing and design, which is the ability to connect different parts of the manufacturing life cycle through data and then utilize that information to make smarter, more efficient business decisions.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2015 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.