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DMDII Taps GE to Lead the Digital Manufacturing Revolution

June 11, 2015
GE's Digital Manufacturing Commons will lead an effort to create an online community for manufacturing collaboration and data analysis.
GE's Digital Manufacturing Commons will lead an effort to create an online community for manufacturing collaboration and data analysis.
The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) has a very clear mission. The federally-funded innovation institute is charged with fundamentally transforming U.S. manufacturing into an efficient, cost-competitive, and awesomely technology-infused endeavor.

In other words, the DMDII is the leading charge of the American manufacturing revolution.

And it looks like it have just made its first big move.

DMDII has tapped General Electric to lead the Institute’s effort to create something it is calling a "Digital Manufacturing Commons" -- a Digital Marketplace that forms the “digital thread” that will connect and drive manufacturing supply chains in the future.  

The open source platform GE scientists are developing will build on an platform the company demonstrated with DARPA and MIT which has already made a splash among top manufacturing leaders.

“The Digital Manufacturing Commons will open up innovation and collaboration in ways that create a whole new renaissance in manufacturing,” said Joseph Salvo, Manager of the Complex Systems Engineering Lab at GE Global Research. “The open source platform we are building with our DMDII partners truly will democratize access to the tools of manufacturing innovation for companies, universities, institutes and entrepreneurs big and small.”

Salvo added, “We are taking an innovative approach featuring a distributed and federated architecture and support from a broad coalition of industry, academic and government partners through DMDII, bringing it to an industrial scale that can support entire manufacturing production processes and supply chains.  We’re building a system that will enable ecosystems of this scope and size to collaborate seamlessly and securely. The opportunities to increase the pace of innovation and speed and efficiency of manufacturing will be transformational.”

“The digitization of manufacturing operations has the potential to unlock tremendous value for U.S. manufacturers and for the American economy overall,” said William King, who is the Chief Technology Officer at DMDII and the Ralph A. Andersen Endowed Chair of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “GE’s open source collaboration project connects manufacturers, supply chains, and entrepreneurs in a new way to dramatically accelerate new products to market.”

King added, “Industry’s hunger for innovation has driven significant new investments in digital manufacturing. GE’s leadership has been instrumental in focusing, aligning, and accelerating these investments.”

“The construction of a digital thread will allow all facets of the manufacturing supply chain to move faster and achieve new levels of productivity previously not possible,” said Stephan Biller, Chief Manufacturing Scientist at GE Global Research. “We’re seeing an amazing convergence taking place between the physical and digital worlds that is changing manufacturing as we know it today.”

Digital Thread: U.S. Manufacturing’s 21st Century Assembly Line

The basic theory behind the project goes like this: Manufactured products generate data in every phase of their lifecycle. Data is generated during design, sourcing, production, distribution, point of sale, and when the product is in use. The digital thread is the seamless flow of data across the product lifecycle.

Today, very little data is actually used from end to end in the manufacturing process. The creation of the Digital Manufacturing Commons will support the digital thread from product ideation to manufacture.  This thread exists in pieces today in manufacturing, but is not yet fully connected.

Digital manufacturing is digitization of manufacturing operations. The digital manufacturing commons will securely aggregate manufacturing data, and allow businesses and individuals to analyze this data. “Manufacturing operations will achieve the agility and speed that we have seen in other digital industries,” said King.

The project aims to build an expansive manufacturing ecosystem, with the goal of having more than 100,000 users from companies, universities, research institutes, and entrepreneurs nationwide by 2017.