Saturday, March 30, 2013

Midwest Pilot vs Euro Factories of the Future

I wrote a bit previously about the midwest pilot to increase penetration of high performance computing and simulation into the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of the US mid-western regional manufacturing supply chain. The similarity to the European 'factories of the future' program jumped out at me as I was reading the recent article in Aerospace America, 'International Beat: Printing your next vehicle'. The article describes the European program:
'Factories of the Future' was set up in 2009, a €1.2-billion public-private partnership between the EC and industry. The research program focuses on the development of new and sustainable technologies highlighted by the Ad-Hoc Industrial Advisory Group to the commission, to help EU manufacturing enterprises--in particular small and medium-sized enterprises--to adapt to global competitive pressures by improving their technological base.

Research areas include new models of production systems (transformable factories, networked factories, learning factories); ICT-based production systems and high-quality manufacturing technologies (including research into increasing autonomous production lines); and sustainable manufacturing tools, methodologies, and processes producing assemblies with complex and novel materials.

With the completion of the EC's seventh framework research program this year, EFFRA has been working to continue the research within the commission's new seven-year research program, Horizon 2020. This will focus on:
  • Advanced manufacturing processes.
  • Adaptive and smart manufacturing systems
  • Digital, virtual, and resource-efficient factories
  • Collaborative and mobile enterprises
  • Human-centered manufacturing
  • Customer-focused manufacturing
Contrast with this from the Council on Competitiveness:
The Council on Competitiveness and selected original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are developing a Midwestern regional pilot program as a public-private partnership with the U.S. federal government. The pilot program is aimed at improving competiveness and innovation in small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in the U.S. manufacturing supply chain. The ultimate outcome of the pilot program will be a workforce with enhanced technical skills, improved product quality, better customization of products, and job retention and growth.


The high level goal of this pilot program is to develop and demonstrate a sustainable, scalable and replicable model for accelerating and broadening use of modeling, simulation and analysis (MS&A) in Midwestern SMEs through a public-private partnership (described below). Funding will be provided as seed money for this pilot program, with the expectation that it will demonstrate a path toward long-term sustainability. This is only achievable if (a) the supply chain members can rapidly reach a point where the results produce cost-benefits that allow and incentivize them to continue use of MS&A, either independently or within the continued context of the pilot program, and (b) software vendors can develop a business model that provides easier and more affordable access to software tools for SMEs.

These manufacturing competitiveness initiatives seem to be focused on additive manufacturing or 3D printing right as this technology peaks on Gartner's hype cycle.
3D Printing Tops the Gartner Hype Cycle 2012
Hopefully something useful will be left for us makers, hackers, engineers and small business owners when all the smoke clears and the twittering classes move on to the next big thing. I think this DIY Rocket thing is a clear indication of the heights of unreasonable expectations that we've reached. It is important to sift through the silliness because there's some really good and useful technology to be exploited here.

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