It goes without saying that Michigan is famed for its manufacturing expertise. The state’s long history in manufacturing technologies has taken an even bigger step most recently, establishing its position as a true pioneer in Industry 4.0.
In partnership with Automation Alley and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is leading a statewide Industry 4.0 initiative designed to encourage the early adoption of automation and digital technologies. To date, the initiative has paired technology and manufacturing, elevating the discussion around the connected manufacturing revolution in Michigan.
Automation Alley, the knowledge center for the statewide Industry 4.0 programming, has several initiatives in place to build on technology and networking across Michigan. The manufacturing hub also provides members with access to services and industry knowledge to help them succeed in the digital era.
One of these initiatives is Project DIAMOnD (Digital, Independent, Agile, Manufacturing on Demand), the nation’s largest blockchain-enabled 3D printer network. This project was established in the fall of 2020 through CARES ACT funding grants of $10 million from Oakland County and $2 million from Macomb County. The initiative has put technology in the hands of local manufacturers, hastening Michigan manufacturers’ digital transformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic signaled the start of the initiative, with the goal of strengthening the supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE). During this moment of need, the distributed manufacturing network enabled local manufacturers to supply PPE to first responders, front-line health care workers and others in need. Many businesses involved viewed this as a chance to contribute to the fight against the pandemic, which ultimately evolved into a valuable Industry 4.0 tool for their own business.
Markforged, the company behind the world’s largest metal and carbon-fiber additive printing platform, Digital Forge, provided the printers for the initiative. The company brings the power and speed of agile business software development to manufacturers, allowing users to create parts critical to serving and growing their own operations. For many in the Detroit area, this has proven to be an invaluable resource.
“Many organizations’ product design processes have completely transformed,” said Dom Holmes, administrator of emerging growth and innovation at Oakland County. “It’s unique in that the technology is in the hands of the manufacturers. They’ve discovered that their productivity and flexibility has skyrocketed since having access to this technology.”
This past spring, Automation Alley announced a significant milestone for Project DIAMOnD: the distribution of 300 3D printers to small and medium-sized manufacturers in Oakland and Macomb County through its grant program. Participants have reaped considerable benefits in terms of supply chain robustness and versatility. In addition to less trade-offs, adopting these technologies has resulted in better forecasts and revenue, greater profit margins, and an improved bottom line. Overall, the program has been a huge success.
“The initiative’s impact on the community as a whole has been an added benefit,” said Holmes. “Other businesses are becoming more aware of prospective partners in the region; it’s a great networking opportunity and representation of regional collaboration.”
Manufacturing companies interested in Project DIAMOnD are encouraged to apply for the Oakland and Macomb County CARES for Manufacturing Grant. Your company will receive grant-funded technology, training, and access to the Project DIAMOnD network if accepted into the program.
To learn more about Project DIAMOnD and its grant program, visit their website at projectdiamond.org.