MxD: The Digital Manufacturing Institute in Chicago

Updated: 6 days ago

We recently wrote about the Manufacturing USA Institutes as a public-private partnership resource for smaller manufacturers. In this article, we will focus on one in particular, the Digital Manufacturing Institute in Chicago, otherwise known as MxD, which is focused on advancing the adoption of digital technology in manufacturing operations. The 100,000-square-foot facility includes a 22,000-square-foot future factory where advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity concepts are demonstrated.

MxD brings together partners from universities, industry, startups, and government to solve technology advancement challenges in digital manufacturing through several programs. Its R&D testbed shares access to advanced manufacturing equipment, facilities, and technical expertise; its Future Factory uses data and innovative manufacturing equipment to train companies on understanding and applying digital manufacturing technologies. Many partners, including Siemens and Autodesk, use the floor for experimentation and training on everything from augmented reality to advanced simulation techniques.

“MxD gives smaller manufacturers an opportunity to get hands-on experience with advanced technologies that they would like to research but cannot afford, as well as see use cases in action for technologies that they may not have seriously considered,” said Berardino Baratta, vice president, Projects & Engineering, MxD. “Some companies use our resources to develop new products, while others learn how to make small changes to older production machinery or processes that lead to greater profitability. Our partners and resources are there to help, whatever the challenge.”

MxD’s manufacturing demonstration cells, such as the discrete manufacturing cell that machines MxD-branded souvenirs, show visitors practical examples of what Industry 4.0 enables: digital workflows, machine and environmental instrumentation, digital fingerprinting, analytics, and predictive maintenance. Data collected from the manufacturing of MxD souvenirs is available to members for use in R&D activities. The demonstration cells also provide members an opportunity to experiment with new ideas and test proofs-of-concept in a controlled environment prior to deploying in a production facility. A project for digitizing legacy equipment “for even the smallest manufacturers” is developing an open-source system using computer-vision-enabled cameras to read legacy displays to produce data in the emerging industry-standard format. The software and hardware toolkit costs under $500 per machine. Through reading the legacy displays, small manufacturers can use data from expensive legacy manufacturing equipment in new processes without disrupting production, creating failure points, or voiding equipment warranties.

In the area of cybersecurity, a Cyber Secure Dashboard was developed to help organizations understand the costs, capabilities, and effectiveness of DOD-required security measures for factory operations. The dashboard guides organizations, especially small manufacturers, through the process of securing IT systems by providing step-by-step instructions, references, best practices, templates, and tools.

Last but not least, MxD provides education and workforce training through online courses, Digital Days programs for students, and a Digital Manufacturing Jobs Taxonomy which has identified 165 roles in manufacturing that will be created or transformed by the introduction of digital technology.

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