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NIST's Contributions to Manufacturing

Dan Sawyer with coordinate measuring machines (CMMs)
photo courtesy HDR Architecture, Inc./Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing
NIST has partnered with the U.S. manufacturing sector for over a century. It provides the measurement tools—as well as other essential technical assistance—that existing U.S. manufacturers and aspiring start-ups need to invent, innovate, and produce—more rapidly and more efficiently than their competitors. 

Today's challenges require stepping up efforts to enhance and strengthen the nation's underlying technical infrastructure so integral to U.S. innovation performance and the advanced manufacturing capabilities employed by U.S. industry. 

Challenges include implementing and mastering smart manufacturing processes that will open new paths for improving flexibility, productivity, quality, and sustainability. Smarter manufacturing processes, in turn, will better position U.S. industry to capitalize on discoveries and inventions stemming from long-term public investments in nano-, bio- and information technologies. 

Progress along many science and technology fronts also will help our nation to succeed in the global competition to develop clean technologies and to tap renewable sources of energy, while creating high-quality 21st century jobs. 

NIST programs span all stages of the innovation ecosystem that enable the development and implementation of advanced technologies. Three key programs and activities are:

  • Najarro_LR 
    photo ©Robert Rathe
    NIST Laboratories: NIST's six major laboratories—including two national user facilities—develop and supply test methods, measurement tools and know-how, and scientific data that are embedded in the processes, products and services of nearly every U.S. manufacturing industry, as well as the nation's service sector. NIST measurement research and services support advances and applications in the smallest of technologies—exceedingly tiny, but extremely promising nanoscale materials and devices—to the largest and most complex of human-made systems, from wide-bodied jets to globe-spanning information networks.
  • Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP): A federal-state partnership, the MEP is a national network of technical assistance centers and offices located in every state. In all, the centers are staffed by about 1,300 technical experts, who help small- and medium-sized manufacturers navigate economic, technological, and business challenges. MEP connects these firms to public and private training, tools, and other resources essential for increasing innovation capabilities, expanding markets, and improving productivity and overall competitiveness. To make a measurable positive impact on efforts to rebuild U.S. manufacturing and to creating U.S. jobs, the MEP has designed a "Make It In America" agenda. This agenda focuses on supplier scouting activities, tools to help companies identify technologies and product development opportunities, and information for companies considering on-shoring their businesses.
  • MEP manufacturing
    photo by Kristen Dill
    Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO): In June 2011, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. This national effort, led by the private sector but drawing on the expertise of industry, universities, and government, is identifying opportunities for investments in R&D, precompetitive collaboration, and shared infrastructure that have the potential to transform U.S. manufacturing into a high-performance engine of innovation and job creation. Complementing the AMP effort, the NIST-hosted interagency program office furthers coordination of federal advanced manufacturing activities. It also builds links to technology and innovation partnerships involving U.S. manufacturers, universities, state and local governments, and other organizations. The new office was established in late 2011 by U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson as part of his strategy to help American businesses "Build it here and sell it everywhere." The AMNPO will be staffed by representatives from the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Defense; the National Science Foundation; and other agencies as well as fellows from industry.

The President's FY 2013 budget request for NIST includes several initiatives focused on overcoming manufacturing-related barriers to innovation, including a research program in Measurement Science for Advanced Manufacturing (+$45 million), and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia Program (+$21 million).

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