SPIE Lauds U.S. Advanced Manufacturing Investment, Notes Photonics will be Driver

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New initiatives recommended in a report to U.S. President Barack Obama last week aimed at boosting advanced manufacturing capability would be sound investments and a good use of the country’s photonics R&D, say leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

Photonics applications are exactly the sort of cross-cutting technologies that the report sees as ‘vital to advance manufacturing’.

New U.S. initiatives to boost advanced manufacturing capability will be sound investments and a good use of the country’s photonics R&D, leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, said this week.

The comments followed release of a new report by the 18-member steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) that was launched by President Obama in June 2011. The Report to the President on Capturing Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing was formally adopted 18 July by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The report addresses needs in three broad categories:

  •     enabling innovation
  •     securing the talent pipeline
  •     improving the business climate.

“Photonics technologies are already the enablers behind advanced manufacturing, yet we are so far seeing only a thin slice of their full potential to drive growth and create new high-skilled jobs,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “Countries such as Germany and Korea that have invested heavily in photonics R&D are demonstrating the competitive advantage of these technologies through their lead positions in advanced manufacturing.”

“Photonics applications are exactly the sort of cross-cutting technologies that the report sees as ‘vital to advance manufacturing’,” said Robert Lieberman, chair of the SPIE committee on Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy (ESTeP). “Photolithography and machine vision are just two examples. Without photonic technology, computer chips could not be fabricated, and the robots in advanced manufacturing plants would be blind. Even the ubiquitous ‘date stamps’ on bottles and cans would disappear.”

In addition, Arthurs and Lieberman cited technologies such as laser sintering, stereolithography, and electron beam melting applications in 3D printing for the rapid prototyping and manufacture of lighter-weight, higher-quality parts for airplanes and automobiles, and of better-performing and more comfortable hearing aids and joint implants. Light-emitting-diodes (LEDs) and holography provide highly reliable information for quality control, and optical systems use lasers to precisely cut, weld, and align manufacturing equipment that produces more accurate finished products.

“With these photonics applications, the results coming out of the manufacturing process are safer, more energy-efficient cars, more accurate medical equipment, and other life-enhancing innovations,” Arthurs said. “The results for society are new better-paying, higher-satisfaction jobs and a stronger, more stable economy.”

An interagency Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO) has already been established by the administration to coordinate federal manufacturing resources and programs and to foster the creation of private-public partnerships focused on manufacturing innovation.

The new office, which is hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is acting on the AMP Steering Committee recommendation to establish a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes. In his budget for fiscal year 2013, President Obama proposed a one-time, $1 billion investment to build the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, consisting of up to 15 regional innovation institutes. Through regional workshops and other means, the AMNPO is now gathering public input on the design of the proposed network.

Access the new report and supporting documents at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional growth, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $2.7 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2011.

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