Guiding a Path toward Smart Manufacturing

Three nonprofit engineering research and development organizations have established programs to support American manufacturers in improving their digital manufacturing capabilities. Their goal is to extend technical support to the industry in supporting global competitiveness for U.S. manufacturing. Aware of the magnitude of cost for advanced capabilities, these organizations seek to provide an economic pathway to realize the full potential of smart manufacturing.

Just last month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology launched the Smart Manufacturing Systems Test Bed, which provides manufacturers with information, models, and data to develop a digital factory. Components include: a computer-aided technologies (CAx) lab, which will test cyber-physical connections across the product lifecycle; a manufacturing lab with fabrication machine tools (e.g., CNC milling, CNC turning) and inspection equipment (e.g., CMM, digital micrometers); and data publication Web services collected from the lab using the MTConnect standard. (

The Digital Manufacturing Commons, sponsored by the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, is a free and open-source software project to develop a collaboration and engineering platform, which will enable plug-and-play functionality across the entire digital thread from product development to manufacturing and services. DMC consists of numerous subsystems, but the highest three levels are the Model Development Kit, which uses a Java-based toolchain and user interface for building, testing, deploying, and running models; the Web platform, which is a collaboration environment designed to support an online community of users who can share data, analytical models, and simulations; and manufacturing apps, which are analytical applications or models written in anything from Excel to MATLAB packaged and wrapped in a standard format. (

Developed by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the Robot Operating System-Industrial (ROS-I) is an open-source software that brings cost-effective intelligent robotics solutions to manufacturers. ROS is heavily used by the research community for service robotics applications, but its technology can be applied to other application areas, including industrial robotics. ROS capabilities, such as advanced perception and path/grasp planning, can enable industrial robotic applications that were previously technically infeasible or cost prohibitive. ROS-I provides planning, training, and technical support to transitioning robotics to the factory floor. (

If you are using these platforms, please tweet about them at or let us know how they are working for you. Contact Kathy Webster at

Categories: Advocacy, Executive Corner, Technology

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: