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3D Printing In The State Of The Union: What is NAMII?

There is a lot of buzz today about 3D Printing, thanks to it’s inclusion in the President’s State of The Union Address. If you missed it here is the relevant quote

Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.

 Of course it is important to really look into what these hubs are. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute of NAMII (NAMII.org) states that their primary focus is on advancing additive manufacturing in order to

  1. Create an infrastructure to exchange information on knowledge and research in Additive Manufacturing
  2. Facilitate the development and deployment of additive manufacturing technologies
  3. Educate Students and Workers in additive manufacturing 

Persumably each of the hubs of innovation will be located in a different part of the country where they can partner with researchers and leading industries to develop this new technology. Ironically there is no information on NAMII’s site or elsewhere that discusses where exactly this hubs will be. Youngstown Ohio, although in a swing state, is not currenltly a hub of innovation. Granted this may be exactly the reason for the location, why bother putting a hub in Silicon Valley where industry is rife with talent willing to fund the innovation and development privately. It will be interesting to see if the other 3 announced are imminent and already have locations or if this will be decided based on politics.

Without getting to political it is also interesting to see the layout of NAMII’s website and compare there stated goals to what their motivation really is.

  • The FAQs are led not with a description of the technology they are charged with developing or information on how to utilize the innovation hub but rather the beauracratic question: Who is cahrged with the administration of NAMII?
  • For an organization that is tasked with advancing the state of the art in a leading scientific and engineering process the membership application is still a long drawn out process which includes first applying by email only then to get a physical application mailed that must be hand filled out and mailed back (not for Saturday delivery)
  • The members list includes most of the big names in AM, though of course not those that are foreign entities (ie. no Stratasys)
  • The members list is primarily private industry with a handful of universities although there is a notable lack of those located near the Youngstown hub. Ohio State University, the largest or second largest in university in the nation, which is less than an hour away is not a member, yet University of Texas (Austin) is.
  • The equipment list includes 10 different 3D Printers (or additive manufacturing machines) so it would seem the hub is equipped to generate moderate output. It is rare to find anything outside of a major hackerspace that would have 10 different printers.

There is plenty more to look at for these hubs and the development of NAMII. As a fan of additive manufacturing technology I am encouraged to see investment and development in the space but am eager to see true innovation and training come out of what must be, if not a large monetary investment at least a symbolic leap into the science of the future.

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