The Southeastern Advanced Machine Tools Network (SEAMTN, “see mountain”), a UT-led consortium, recently received $5 million in funding from the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program aimed at improving the country’s place on the global stage for machine tools and related technology.
This award comes just weeks after SEAMTN was selected as one of only five programs in the US to be included as a Defense Manufacturing Community by the US Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, marking its eligibility for DoD funding.
“This support will help us as we move to achieve the goals we’ve set for our group, including training the current and future workforce, developing the next generation of machine tools and processes, and creating a talent pipeline to fuel our economy,” said Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering Professor and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) joint faculty Tony Schmitz, SEAMTN Director. “We can position the greater Tennessee Valley as a hub for research, development, and training to support advanced machine tools.”
The consortium is composed of many East Tennessee leaders in manufacturing research and education, including the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility located at ORNL, Consolidated Nuclear Security Y-12, IACMI – the Composites Institute, Pellissippi State Community College, and Roane State Community College. Outside of the region, locations in Huntsville, Alabama, Maple Grove, Minnesota, Youngstown, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Huntington, West Virginia are also parts of the effort, highlighting its potential for national impact.
Schmitz said that the group’s aim is to have at least 1,000 visitors per year, per location, across three separate technology demonstration sites, with online instruction also being offered. He said that the group is also committed to diversity, with a minimum of 25 percent of participants coming from under-represented groups as part of its college- and school-related programs.
SEAMTN is organized into a trio of initiatives:
- SEAMTN Develops, focused on emerging technology and partner-specific projects;
- SEAMTN Trains, training people on machining, cybersecurity, working with the DoD, and apprenticeships;
- SEAMTN Connects, fostering communication and partnerships.
Together, the goal is that the US reclaims its role as a leader in machine tools and manufacturing, something that could have a massive effect on the economy.
“Just here in the US, machining is a $325 billion industry, one that we used to dominate,” said Schmitz. “Training workers and developing machining tools through our initiative is, of course, important on an individual level, but it has major implications for our future as a country, as well.”
The Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program makes long-term investments in critical skills, facilities, workforce development, research and development, and small business support in order to strengthen the national security industrial base. SEAMTN is one of five 2021 awards across the US to support this mission.