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Sharpening Our Competitive Edge and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

A snapshot of the revolutionary technologies showing why America continues to be the most innovative, entrepreneurial country in the world.

Innovation and U.S. manufacturing are inextricably linked—that’s why the President launched the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a network of manufacturing hubs across the country that is designed to sharpen America’s competitive edge in spurring the next generation of manufacturing jobs and investment. Each manufacturing hub brings together leaders from private companies, universities, and non-profits—alongside the Federal Government—to pioneer breakthroughs in emerging manufacturing technology. And with new competitions underway, we are well on track to meet the President’s goal of fifteen hubs launched by the end of this year.

A snapshot of the revolutionary technologies on which the manufacturing hubs and their partners are focused shows why America continues to be the most innovative, entrepreneurial country in the world:

1. Collaborative robots – Dedicated to advanced robotics, this hub will develop robots designed to work alongside humans seamlessly, safely, and intuitively, lifting heavy products on an assembly line or handling intricate or dangerous tasks with precision. Our latest manufacturing hub competition launched this week will bring together industry and academia to develop these robots to work in tandem with humans on the factory floor.

2. Bendable electronics – Roll up your laptop or slap on a bendable bandage with real-time biomarker monitoring through flexible hybrid electronics. By combining electronics with high-precision printing, Next Flex in San Jose, CA, the vibrant heart of Silicon Valley, is developing cutting-edge manufacturing technology that enables sensors to hug the curves of a human body or stretch across a helicopter blade—all while achieving the same power and performance as traditional electronics. 

Watch how a Next Flex partner prints flexible electronics:

3. 3D printing living cells – What was once the stuff of science fiction may soon be a source of newfound hope for wounded warriors and transplant patients. The competition is now open for a new manufacturing hub to unlock the techniques needed to synthetically repair and replace cells and tissues, in order to manufacture new skin for warriors scarred from combat or to produce life-saving organs for the too many Americans stuck on transplant waiting lists today.

How these manufacturing techniques can create a life-saving synthetic blood vessel for heart surgery and kidney dialysis:


4. 3D printed cars – Forget going zero to sixty – check out a car taken from blueprint to 3D print in less than six months, made out of high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber. Even the Vice President was enamored when visiting a partner of the Knoxville, TN hub for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation:

“We lost Joe’s attention when we laid eyes on that 3D-printed sports car—the carbon fiber Cobra. Biden started pulling out his aviator glasses—and we had to explain to him, you don’t get to drive on this trip. But besides being a cool car, it’s a great example of how a hub like this operates. So Oak Ridge National Labs created the design and manufacturing processes. Techmer produced the composite materials. Another company called Tru-Design developed the surface finishing techniques. Undergrads from UT worked on the project, gaining skills that can help them get hired in the future.” 
-President Obama, January 9, 2015


Watch how partners of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation 3D print a carbon fiber car:

5. Smart fabrics – Focused on revolutionary fibers and textile technologies, our new manufacturing hub Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is bringing together an unusual crowd – from New York fashion designers to Cambridge, MA electronics specialists to 100 year-old Carolina textile mills. Together these new partners are marrying high-tech and high-fashion with fabrics that can sense, feel, heat, and cool – and help our Olympians row to victory in seamless, ultralight performance wear. Take that, smarty pants. 


6. Ultra-lightweight go-karts – In Detroit, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) is bringing together rocket scientists and race car designers to create next generation metals that can cut the weight of car parts by 40%, helping improve fuel efficiency and save drivers dollars at the pump – or give these students using lightweight go-carts a leg up and some extra credit - at the 500 Grand Prix.

go kart

7. Virtual and augmented reality – It’s not just for video games. The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) in Chicago is providing workers on the assembly line with hands free access to digital insights, intel, and instructions as they scan a machine part or look around the factory floor. 


8. Miniaturizing electronics – PowerAmerica in Raleigh, NC is testing the limits of portable electronics. With their new semiconductor technology, they envision shrinking your laptop charger to the size of a keyring and your power station down to the size of a refrigerator using power electronics.

tiny tech