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Two Manufacturing Institutes Unveil Detroit Investment

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

DETROIT — Two Manufacturing USA institutes today used Manufacturing Day to unveil about $50 million of investment in Detroit.

Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) showed equipment intended to spur advancements in making components and products lighter. The facility, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, is also LIFT’s headquarters. IACMI is based in Knoxville, TN , but occupies part of the Detroit center.

Both the auto and aerospace industries are seeking to cut weight from vehicles and aircraft to improve fuel efficiency.

“This is the right place for it to be,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told reporters, referring to the Detroit facility. For Michigan, home of the US auto industry, he said, “this is the best way to continue that leadership.”

There are 14 Manufacturing USA institutes, each concentrating on different technologies. LIFT and IACMI opted to work together in Detroit because each deals with technology that may affect the auto industry. IACMI, for example is focusing on cheaper ways to cut the cost of light but strong carbon fiber. The institutes are funded and supervised by federal agencies, primarily the Defense Department and Energy Department.

A LIFT work cell with robots. (Photo by Bill Koenig)

LIFT was one of the original institutes. The institutes were established during the Obama administration as a way for companies to collaborate with universities and other non-profit groups on new processes and materials. It will still be up to companies to commercialize work developed at the institutes.

‘Collaborative Space’

LIFT originally was slated to locate in Canton, MI, a Detroit suburb. The institute switched to Detroit and is housed in a former warehouse.

“Projects are underway,” Larry Brown, LIFT’s executive director, said after today’s event. The facility “provides that collaborative space.”

The investment included rewiring LIFT’s facility so it could handle large industrial equipment. The complex now includes robots, presses and metrology.

LIFT is hire up to 26 engineers and researchers and has about half that number now, Brown said.

As part of the event, students from area schools toured LIFT as part of Manufacturing Day activities.

“Young people, don’t be afraid to dream,” Brown said during a ceremony. “I guess I’m going to live the dream.”


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