In our ever-changing world, technology is weaving together different sectors and applications, resulting in tremendous new opportunities. As Manufacturing USA® institutes, we work with our federal agency sponsors (Departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy) to build collaboration between manufacturers, academic institutions and government entities in order to leverage technology innovation into manufacturing and create a skilled workforce.
Our clothes help define us, yet the fabrics we wear have remained functionally unchanged for thousands of years. Breakthroughs in materials and manufacturing processes allow us to design and produce fabrics that see, hear, sense, communicate, store and convert energy, regulate temperature, monitor health and change color — heralding the dawn of a fabric revolution. The possibilities of wearable technology are endless.
Advanced Functional Fabrics of America focuses on catalyzing a domestic manufacturing-based revolution, transforming traditional fibers, yarns and textiles into highly sophisticated integrated and networked devices and systems and facilitating the conversion of the textile industry into a value-added, high-tech industry. They’ve fused technology into existing platforms to create something new and useful in many ways. One example is the LOOKs programmable backpack, which is the world’s first programmable backpack that is mass produced, yet completely unique.
Integrating collaborative robotics
As fabrics become smarter, so do robots. Today’s robots are doing jobs that people don’t want to do –stripping paint, packing boxes and moving heavy or unsafe objects. Oftentimes, these robots are costly to implement, or only perform a single function. Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) focuses on accelerating the use of industrial robots to drive U.S. economic growth, emphasizing key manufacturing areas such as aerospace, automotive electronics and textiles. Technology is being developed every day to make robots more versatile, safer and more cost-effective. Most importantly, robotic technology is making significant progress in collaboration.
Collaborative robots work alongside humans, together, to complete a full task. For instance, a collaborative effort is underway in the fish industry, where technology is being developed to test the quality of fish, a task that is unpleasant for humans.
Robots can help keep production lines going when the labor market is tight. Some people may see a future where robots do everything, but ARM sees a future where robots do what people find menial, unsafe or physically exhaustive. When robots and people work together, the U.S. can maximize its potential as a global leader in manufacturing and innovation.
Manufacturing accounts for 25% of U.S. energy consumption. As innovation in manufacturing increases, so do the ways to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The REMADE Institute is working on technologies to dramatically reduce energy consumption and waste in manufacturing through collaborations across a range of industries.
REMADE and partners focus on technologies to reuse, recycle and remanufacture metals, fibers, polymers and electronic waste. REMADE takes a system-level approach to address challenges across the entire material lifecycle, including process, design and design process innovations.
Key industry members work alongside small businesses and a strong network of universities and national labs. Together these organizations will discover better ways to recycle and recover valuable materials, develop new processes for remanufacturing and end of life re-use, and infuse sustainability into product design.
These are just a few of the ways that institutes collaborate with community and national partners to secure U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing.