Governor of Michigan Expands Program to Boost Small Manufacturers’ 3D Printing Capabilities

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Back in 2020, Michigan nonprofit Automation Alley, an advanced manufacturing accelerator, was one of a number of organizations that recognized that the pandemic had put a premium on bringing manufacturing closer to the point of need. As such, Automation Alley launched Project Distributed, Independent, Agile Manufacturing on Demand (DIAMOnD), which in the last five years has invested $25 million to lower the barrier-to-entry for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), located in three counties in the Detroit metro area, who are looking to adopt additive manufacturing (AM).

Now, in an effort “to expand the project into all of Michigan’s 83 counties,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, has committed an undisclosed amount of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to Project DIAMOnD. Also a product of the early COVID days, Congress passed ARPA, a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, during President Biden’s first 100 days in the White House. Project DIAMOnD’s AM industry backers include 3YOURMIND and Markforged, with the 3D printing network using printers from the latter to produce tourniquets for Ukraine at the beginning of Russia’s ground invasion in 2022.

Tourniquet parts printed with the Markforged ecosystem by Project DIAMOnD. Image courtesy of Markforged

According to Michigan Advance, regarding the Governor of Michigan’s intentions to use ARPA funds to expand Project DIAMOnD, the Oakland County Executive, Dave Coulter, said, “[Project DIAMOnD is giving Oakland County businesses access to 3D printing technology and training that is allowing them to dramatically cut production time and costs as well as keep manufacturing right here in Michigan. After our initial investment of $25 million over two phases, we are thrilled that Macomb, Wayne, and the State of Michigan are joining the program to make it a regional and statewide priority — and an opportunity for global competitiveness.”

Governor Whitmer said, “Today’s commitment by Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties to expand Automation Alley’s Project DIAMOnD will help us grow our economy, lower costs for small businesses, and build out the ‘Infrastructure for Innovation’ we need to lead the future. At this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference, I am focused on unleashing Michigan innovation to solve some of the biggest problems we face and grow the cutting-edge industries that will help us lead the future while recruiting and retaining top talent to Michigan.”

Automation Alley in Troy, Michigan. Image courtesy of MLive

I just posted about the South Kansas Coalition project, “Driving Adoption: Smart Manufacturing Technologies”, backed by $51 million in federal funds. Project DIAMOnD is not only a good example of the same kind of initiative, but could also, in fact, directly contribute to the success of what the South Kansas Coalition is doing at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).

The NIAR’s work with the US Army on its ground vehicle program involves a contract granted by the Ground Vehicle Systems Center at the Detroit arsenal. Thus, bolstering Michigan’s overall AM capacity should enable the NIAR research gains to transfer as widely as possible across the state economy.

In this way, we can see precisely what a national manufacturing landscape most fundamentally is: the total interrelationship between interconnected regional manufacturing ecosystems. The policies defining those interconnections may come from the top-down, but the ecosystems themselves must be built from the bottom-up.

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