Four recent studies conducted by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) on the impacts of additive manufacturing, advanced robotics and automation, roll-to-roll manufacturing, and smart manufacturing have found that these technologies could save U.S. manufacturing approximately $100 billion annually.
“Gaps in the technology infrastructure—including the lack of reliable measurement and test methods, scientifically based standards, and other formal knowledge and tools—limit advanced manufacturing’s further development and adoption,” said NIST economist Gary Anderson, coordinator of the economic studies prepared by RTI International, an independent nonprofit research institute.
The studies identified obstacles to advanced technical adoption as well as the steps necessary to eliminate them. They found that smart manufacturing, which processes data electronically through all steps of the manufacturing process, and advanced robotics and automation could save industries the most money, approximately $57.4 billion and $40.1 billion, respectively.
The studies’ researchers stated that the savings estimates were conservative, as they were made up of only the benefits directly attributable to closing the identified technical gaps.
“If we consider the larger-scale outcomes brought about by meeting these needs—such as new and improved products, increased production quality, long-term industry growth and job creation—the impacts would be significantly higher,” Anderson said.
The study recommended that industry keep standards and performance measures nonproprietary, use public research institutions to develop those tools, and work through manufacturing research consortia and technology extension services to ensure that all manufacturers—especially small- and medium-sized enterprises—can access them.
“Our studies emphasize that full economic impact will only be realized if all technical needs are met, and all stakeholders regardless of size, not just large manufacturers, can share in the rewards,” Anderson said.