The AM ecosystem is experiencing rapid growth and has the potential to transform the way we manufacture goods. Our economic strength and national security rely on a thriving American manufacturing sector. To maintain our competitive edge, we must continue to foster collaboration, share knowledge, and partner with small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) that hold a powerful niche in the industry – yet are often hindered by cost barriers. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) make up 98.5% of all manufacturers in the U.S. and constitute 73% of America Makes membership.
Expansion is Key to American Manufacturing
Research & Development
Research and development efforts must focus on enhancing the speed, precision, and scalability of AM systems, enabling the production of larger and more intricate objects, and increasing the overall efficiency of the process. It also requires the development of new materials and techniques. Innovations in materials science can lead to the creation of stronger, lighter, and more sustainable materials that can be used in a variety of industries.
Fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing is essential for the growth of the AM ecosystem. Convening experts from different fields, such as engineering, design, research, and materials science, can lead to groundbreaking discoveries and applications. The creation of platforms for collaboration will allow researchers and industry professionals to exchange ideas, share best practices, and collectively push the boundaries of what is possible with AM.
Education & Workforce Training
Providing education and workforce development training opportunities for students and professionals of all ages will help ensure that future workforce generations are skilled, reskilled, and upskilled to work in and push the boundaries of this technology.
Our Approach: Growing the Ecosystem
Drawing on our years of experience working across a complex ecosystem of AM stakeholders, America Makes believes that this innovative industry should be a priority interest to stakeholders in economic development. Based on our work with our national membership and other partners, we have identified critical elements needed to grow this industry ecosystem:
- Utilize and extend existing infrastructure. The U.S. must continue to invest in and utilize the existing infrastructure of the additive industry. This includes harnessing the elements that are already working well and building upon them to increase scalability and overall impact. Instead of replicating or replacing effectively functioning institutions, they should be incorporated and, if necessary, provided with resources to modernize. This way, their existing skills and networks can be utilized, and their capabilities can be extended.
- State-level ecosystem deployments. To cultivate a favorable business climate, it is strongly recommended to facilitate coordination among state-level ecosystems. An effective approach is to convene ecosystem roundtables, where stakeholders can actively participate in constructive conversations about public policy, the obstacles encountered by the diverse industry, and the potential avenues for advancing the widespread adoption of AM technologies. It is crucial to consider the interests of both the AM and supply chain communities throughout this process.
- Policy alignment. To address the industry’s most critical challenges, industry leaders need to take a seat at the table alongside federal decision-makers to exchange ideas, recommendations, and proposals. Moreover, they should actively advocate for government incentives that stimulate the utilization of AM technology funding among small-medium manufacturers, achieved through strategic partnerships with established companies. Additionally, supporting the reshoring of the nation’s supply chains is vital to guarantee timely access to qualified parts for companies.
- Focus on critical industry technologies. Ecosystems must expand emerging technologies in the fields of semiconductor, medical and automotive manufacturing, aerospace systems/propulsion, and temperature-resistant materials, which are critical to national and economic security. Priority should be given to technologies with cross-cutting applicability, high adoption rates, and workforce skill transferability.
Unlocking the Potential
Expanding the AM ecosystem requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses technological advancements, material innovations, collaboration, accessibility, and education. By addressing these key aspects, we can unlock the full potential of AM and pave the way for a future where customized, sustainable, and efficient production is the norm.
- Competitive strength, market demand, and business capabilities and policies that foster entrepreneurship and technology development.
- Strong partners from the federal government, economic development groups, industry, academic and research institutions, existing start-ups, and a skilled and unskilled workforce.
- A strong conviction for information sharing for business and research purposes is needed to maintain a competitive advantage.
- Financial resources to support both start-up companies and entrenched ecosystem players to secure physical goods and infrastructure needed to develop and deploy novel technologies.
- Public amenities including airports, roads, housing, and corporate space, and zoning laws that allow for the development of new companies including technology testing facilities.
- Efficient regulatory permitting processes that prevent the slowdown of technology development.
Pushing the Boundaries
America Makes is mission-driven to create platforms and spaces to convene key stakeholders – from large to small – to exchange innovative ideas, share best practices, and collectively push the boundaries of what is possible with additive manufacturing.