The U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, visited the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation Thursday as part of a two-day tour of the institutes that make up the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.
Gov. Bill Haslam, Mark Johnson from the Department of Energy, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman, Rep. Kent Calfee, and mayors from Knoxville, Oak Ridge, Knox County and Anderson County were present for portions of the day’s activities.
Pritzker toured Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility during her visit with the institute, industry partners and government leaders.
“Here in Knoxville, members of this institute are making it cheaper, faster and more efficient to develop composite materials for use in things like cars and homes and all kinds of different products,” said Secretary Pritzker.
“What impressed me most about this facility is the collaboration that’s going on and the enthusiasm that you see from scientists working side by side with the private sector to create new products or to reinvent the existing products that we have today.”
Part of the mission of the NNMI is collaboration among institutes so that knowledge and breakthroughs can be shared.
“The idea being that the institutes can learn from each other and work with each other and I think if you ask Craig [Blue], he will tell you that many of his participants here are working with other institutes.”
When asked at what point consumers might expect to see this type of technology in the marketplace, IACMI CEO Craig Blue answered, “You’re already seeing it today.”
Blue spoke briefly about current uses in both the automotive and biomedical industries and emphasized the impact this technology has had in the tooling area for polymer injection molding.
Blue outlined several ways in which IACMI is engaged in to promote STEM and workforce development in this specialized field: educational programs through UT, partnering with ORNL, student internships and hosting approximately 6,000 visitors a year.
“We’re continuing to try to improve more outreach and let people know the asset is right in their back yard.”
After touring the facilities, Pritzker attended a roundtable meeting with industry leaders, representatives from UT, ORNL, the Department of Energy and others.
Also on Pritzker’s NNMI institute tour:
- America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio, focused on helping the United States grow capabilities and strength in 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
- Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago, focused on digital manufacturing and design, which is the ability to connect different parts of the manufacturing life cycle through data and then utilize that information to make smarter, more efficient business decisions.