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Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing: Manufacturing USA® and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership

manufacturing usa mep infographic

The infographic, Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing: Manufacturing USA® and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, highlights how Manufacturing USA and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) support U.S. industry to manufacture high-quality American-made products that can compete in the global marketplace. Both are public-private partnerships headquartered at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The programs improve national manufacturing competitiveness through different models.

Manufacturing USA’s network of 16 manufacturing innovation institutes strive to secure U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing through large-scale collaborations on R&D innovation projects. Some of these collaborations involve technology, supply chain, education and workforce development. The institutes, sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Defense (DoD), which leads nine institutes, Energy (DOE), which leads six, and Commerce (DOC), which leads one, partner with six additional federal agencies.

In contrast, the MEP National Network™ includes Centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. These Centers work primarily with small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs), offering over 1,400 trusted advisors and experts at more than 385 MEP service locations. MEP experts work side-by-side with manufacturers to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, develop the next-generation workforce, create new products, find new markets and more.

The two models complement each other by serving U.S. manufacturers throughout their products’ life cycle. While Manufacturing USA develops future manufacturing capabilities through applied technology development research, MEP Centers help manufacturers deploy available technologies and support business practices that enable manufacturers to succeed.

Manufacturing USA/MEP Center Collaborations

MEP Centers can facilitate collaborations with Manufacturing USA institutes so their manufacturing clients can draw directly on Manufacturing USA facilities, expertise and connections. Examples of these collaborations include:

Photonics Foundry: Illinois-based Iris Light Technologies is an early-stage startup developing color-versatile lasers for silicon photonics, which are used for fiber-optic communications. Its manufacturing process involves printing a nanomaterial ink directly on-chip at the foundry, simplifying laser manufacturing. The company reached out to the New York MEP Center for information about the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics, a DoD-sponsored Manufacturing USA institute). In addition to other resources and support, New York MEP and NIST MEP facilitated discussions between Iris Light Technologies and AIM Photonics, which led to a tour and technology review at the institute.

Microscale Weld Tip Manufacturing: Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions (Arkansas MEP Center) worked with a client that manufactures welding tips for microscale material joining. This manufacturer requested alternatives to current electrical discharge machining processes. Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions and NIST MEP explored additive manufacturing options for microscale printing of metals and contacted a node of America Makes (a DoD-sponsored Manufacturing USA institute) located at Binghamton University’s Center of Advanced Technology. The institute’s knowledge and relationships led the manufacturer to Electro-Optical Systems, a global leader in the industrial 3D printing of metals. This collaboration completed a multiyear search for a manufacturing technology and a solution provider for producing welding tips at cost targets that will allow the manufacturer to expand its market penetration.

Aerospace Composites: A University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS, the Tennessee MEP Center) manufacturing client wants to design, develop and test aftermarket auto seats using its material expertise and composite manufacturing technology. In addition, the client plans to bring the next generation of composite fabrics to the aerospace industry. It contacted UT CIS to learn what resources were available to help the company better understand the impact performance of the material during an accident. UT CIS and NIST MEP contacted the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI, a DOE-sponsored Manufacturing USA institute) to explore engineering resources that could support the client’s objectives. By nurturing collaborative relationships, UT CIS established a project team with representatives from the MEP client, IACMI, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a third-party contributor to work together on the client’s manufacturing objectives.

On-Site Hydrogen: A startup that wants to produce hydrogen on-site contacted UT CIS requesting support in finding a highly instrumented steam generator. UT CIS and NIST MEP reached out to the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment Institute (RAPID, a DOE-sponsored Manufacturing USA institute) to find available companies with the equipment and services needed to test the client’s pilot process. RAPID identified MATRIC, an independent, nonprofit chemical R&D firm that had mothballed equipment that met the company’s parameters, saving money and reducing lead-time for the startup.

Multi-Material Joining: WarmLife Panels Inc. is an early-stage startup developing radiant panels that provide clean, energy-efficient heat in minutes via a closed system that can be used inside structures or outside under tents and walkways. WarmLife Panels reached out to the New York MEP requesting manufacturing technology options for joining dissimilar materials. New York MEP partnered with UT CIS to facilitate a product review between WarmLife and IACMI leadership. This led to proposed technology and manufacturing options including laser processing, advanced adhesives and mechanical joining. The engagement with IACMI resulted in WarmLife Panels testing various designs and manufacturing processes and ultimately deciding on a snap-and-click design for prototype testing.

Download the Infographic

The distinct approaches of Manufacturing USA and MEP have one goal: strengthening U.S. manufacturing. Download the infographic, Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing: Manufacturing USA® and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, to learn more about their missions, methods and impacts.

About the author

Mike Simpson

Mike Simpson is part of NIST MEP’s Network Learning and Strategic Competition Division, in which he manages a number of MEP’s Competitive Award Projects.

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