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House Manufacturing Caucus Looks at NAMII, Additive Manufacturing
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The first meeting of the House Manufacturing Caucus for the 113th Congress provided a national stage for the new National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. “To have testimony before the Manufacturing Caucus and for people in Washington, D.C. to be talking about the Tech Belt is going to continue to build a lot of momentum for us,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13.
Ryan and U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-23 N.Y., co-chairmen of the caucus, held the “Manufacturing 101” kickoff event Tuesday in Washington. Among the featured speakers was Ralph Resnick, president and executive director of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, who until this week served as acting director of Youngstown-based NAMII.
Although additive manufacturing has been around for a while, it's been going through an evolution in terms of process and materials improvements, Resnick said during a panel discussion. “It’s caught on in recent years because the price of printers has gone down, patents have expired, so there’s extreme interest in this now,” he said. There is a lot of hype about it – some justified -- but turning additive manufacturing into “a viable product that the public could use and could be easily transitioned is really where the rubber meets the road,” he continued. “That’s where NAMII is focused.”
Resnick addressed concerns about how additive manufacturing could impact traditional manufacturing employment, and how new technology and innovation create new areas of opportunity. “If we are not leading that charge, if we are not participating fully, then we are going to lose that large portfolio of wealth creation that comes with these new innovations,” he said.
The most competitive firms, Resnick said during a phone interview following the event, are those that find new and upgraded processes from innovation. Research and development is the core of the “innovation machine that the nation’s economy was funded on,” he remarked, and 70% of industrial research and development is performed by manufacturers.
“But for us to stay competitive, the results of the R&D need to stay in the United States and add to the [gross domestic product] for a significant period of time,” he continued. “If it does, it represents an investment, and if it goes offshore, it represents a cost and we gain little benefit.”
A successful manufacturing infrastructure includes access and engagement with academic researchers, large and small technology developers and builders, material suppliers, parts makers and an educated and well-trained workforce, Resnick said. But before additive manufacturing is accepted by mainstream manufacturing, a number of issues need to be addressed and much work needs to be done, a process that NAMII is intended to facilitate, he added.
“You have revolutionary technology but you also have cost savings on the government side, which seems to touch politically two issues that the political parties are talking about,” Ryan observed.
“Democrats are always talking about making investments in innovation, and we’re all concerned with reducing spending to the extent we can. This helps do that within the energy and defense areas," the congressman said. "Getting the message out -- and for the center of that discussion to be happening in downtown Youngstown is really fantastic.”
Resnick said he was impressed with the number of individuals who attended the Manufacturing Caucus event, including several members of Congress. “That’s a good sign that the Manufacturing Caucus is committed to the importance of U.S. manufacturing and is anxious to find opportunities to help lead and provide guidance in that area,” he said. The forum also provided a “great opportunity to discuss the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation that President Obama put forth and specifically NAMII.
“I think they get it," Resnick said, but it’s a question of whether we take action and execute,” which the public-private partnership to build up additive manufacturing through NAMII exemplifies.
Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.