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Driving the Digital Manufacturing Transformation

The Digital Manufacturing Design Innovation Institute is set to open its new facility soon and serious research and development is already underway to transform the U.S. manufacturing base with digital manufacturing technologies.

Artist rendering of DMDII's new Goose Island, Chicago, facility.
Artist rendering of DMDII's new Goose Island, Chicago, facility.

Many announcements of government initiatives to bolster industry or technology research and application are often not much more than that—announcements. Years after such announcements it can often be difficult to find much evidence of anything tangible happening after the announcement aside from numerous meetings and project plans, the actualization of which can be difficult to determine.

However, at Siemens Automotive Manufacturing Summit 2015—part of the annual Manufacturing in America Symposium that Siemens has held with Electro-Matic Products since 2013—I saw good evidence of how one aspect of President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee is now poised to make significant contributions to the U.S. manufacturing sector.

That evidence was delivered in an update on the activities of the Digital Manufacturing Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). The mission of DMDII is to apply cutting-edge digital technologies to reduce the time and cost of manufacturing, strengthen the capabilities of the U.S. supply chain, and reduce acquisition costs. According the institute’s web site: The DMDII will both develop and demonstrate digital manufacturing technologies and deploy and commercialize these technologies across key manufacturing industries.

Only in operation since 2014—and not even moved into its official facility yet (more on that below)—DMDII already has several active projects slated for 2015, including:

Virtually Guided Certification—Demonstrate technologies that use advanced computing, modeling and simulation, and data analysis to significantly reduce the time and cost of certifying a material, manufacturing process or design.

Operating System for Cyberphysical Manufacturing—Develop an operating system for manufacturing that provides both horizontal and vertical resource management from the lowest hardware to the highest enterprise level.

The Smart Factory Visibility and Real-Time Optimization—Demonstrate technologies that can provide real-time visibility into the operations of a smart factory, and demonstrate factory controls based on real-time feedback loops.

Factory Cybersecurity Infrastructure Assessment—Develop tools for assessing the cybersecurity vulnerability of small manufacturing businesses.

Shop Floor Augmented Reality and Wearable Computing—Demonstrate technologies that integrate the shop floor workforce into the digital thread, using wearable computing, mobile computing and advanced data visualization.

Communication Standards for Intelligent Machines—Create an initial framework and set of standards for intelligent machine communication (e.g., legacy and modern production machines, robotic devices, manufacturing cells, and other smart manufacturing systems).

Systems Design Using the Digital Thread—Demonstrate technologies that use data from across the product lifecycle and value chain to improve product design and manufacturing.

“Working collaboratively, our partners have committed more than $250 million in matching funds to support the digital lab, leveraging $70 million in funding from the federal government,” said George Barnych, DMDII’s director of research and development programs. In his presentation, Barnych outlined DMDII’s support as coming from 40 industry partners and more than 30 academia, government and community partners, in addition to more than 500 supporting companies and organizations. Founding industry partners include General Electric, Rolls-Royce, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Boeing, Deere, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Illinois Tool Works, and PARC.

“The point of DMDII is to identify gaps where digital manufacturing needs work, distribute intellectual property developed from the research, engage small and medium-sized business, and contribute to workforce development,” explained Barnych. “The idea is to get teams to work together that don't normally work together.”

Barnych said that the gap between manufacturers’ recognition of the importance of digital manufacturing and their capabilities to use it underscore much of DMDII’s work. Referencing a recent study conducted by DMDII, Barnych said that 81 percent of responding manufacturers realize that having digital operations are important, but only 14 percent consider themselves to have a “high digital capability.”

DMDII’s office is being completed on Goose Island in Chicago, with DMDII planning to move into the facility in April 2015, said Barnych. The DMDII Goose Island facility will house functioning advanced manufacturing cells in which to apply and demonstrate digital manufacturing technologies; the facility will also feature numerous collaborative work areas for members. The seven manufacturing cells planned for the facility will feature multi-axis high-end machining and traditional machining, additive manufacturing, metrology, welding and fabrication, micro machining, and electronics manufacturing.

Barnych stressed that membership is open to all sizes and types of relevant companies and organizations, with appropriately priced membership tiers available. More information is available at

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