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U.S. to Fund Additive Manufacturing Research

Complaining about taxes is nearly a national hobby in the United States, but President Obama wants to take some of that money and invest it in 3D printing. As part of a continued push by the president’s administration toward increasing manufacturing based in the U.S., he has proposed creating a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

Part of the proposal is the creation of up to 15 hubs of commerce, scattered throughout the states to help U.S. manufacturers become more competitive and bring investor cash flow to the process. The president has suggested a $1 billion investment for the network.

President Obama

President Obama to push for additive manufacturing research as part of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Courtesy of the White House.

Even if the proposal is accepted (certainly not a sure thing), it’ll take some time to begin construction on the network hubs. In the meantime, President Obama would like to create a pilot institute for the manufacturing initiative using $45 million in existing funds drawn from the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, as well as the National Science Foundation. Those involved in the actual construction and running of the pilot are to be selected from a “competitive application process.”

A focus of the pilot institute is additive manufacturing (AM). This includes 3D printers, materials, digital design, supply chain and environmental impact. The institute will join forces of the Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.

The stated goals of the program (as shown on the website) are as follows:

  • Development of open architecture additive manufacturing processes that have flexibility in starting raw materials and processing conditions and that can utilize open-architecture machine-control software that can be customized for specific applications.
  • Fabrication of novel hybrid materials at relevant scale with multifunctional properties, such as tailored stiffness, electrical conductivity, and cooling passages, including the potential use of direct write and deposition processes.
  • Incorporation of in-situ metrology and process controls to measure quality and performance attributes.
  • Improved as-deposited surface finish.
  • Improved deposition rates, manufacturing throughput, and process reliability.
  • Deposition methods for improved surface finish, corrosion resistance, or wear resistance.
  • Advanced manufacturing enterprise methodologies for enabling rapid design and functional fabrication of current and future DOD platforms through integration of digital designs with reverse engineering techniques, using computational tools and mechanisms.
  • Fabrication methods with lower energy-intensity.
  • Advanced methods to rapidly and affordably qualify additive manufacturing processes.

It’s hard to see how this is anything less than fantastic news for AM if even part of what the Obama administration is pushing for actually goes through. A $45 million investment in AM technology is nothing to sneer at, and could help companies that are already expanding and improving at a steady rate to make new leaps and bounds. We’ve heard time and again that the U.S.needs to compete with a technological manufacturing base, and AM seems like a no-brainer area of focus.

Below you’ll find a video that features President Obama discussing the initiative.

Sources: The White House, Manufacturing.gov

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About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

6 comments

  1. It’s about time ! I would love to be involved in this.

  2. Any ideas on how to efficiently find out which manufacturers in one’s area has or is engaged in Additive Manufacturing?

  3. Please look at any of the goals and think about a practical application for nuts and bolts mass production. All of it sounds great at the college level but apply it to basic manufacturing of a car, computer, or anything else that needs large scale production to reduce our imports. I wounder how this technology would compete with stamping or roll forming.

    • Hi,

      Not all production is mass manufacturing. I’ve asked industry professionals about the same issue you’ve raised and the response has largely been the same. No one expects AM to replace mass production. AM can compliment production and offers solutions to problems that would otherwise be either impossible or extremely expensive with traditional processes.

      A number of manufacturers, including automotive and aerospace, have already begun to use AM parts. As the technology improves, it will have more adopters. You can poke around the site for more information on what is being planned for AM in the future.

      -John

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