The UT-led Southeastern Advanced Machine Tools Network (SEAMTN, “see mountain”) took a monumental step forward recently, when the US Department of Defense Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation selected it for inclusion as a Defense Manufacturing Community, one of only five programs in the US so selected this year.
That designation is key, as it allows SEAMTN to formally apply for funding, which will enable significant impact and reach to support its mission to address machine tool vulnerabilities that impact US defense manufacturing, national security, and economic prosperity.
Headquartered at UT, the consortium includes several academic, research, and manufacturing entities from the greater Tennessee Valley, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, Consolidated Nuclear Security Y-12, Pellissippi State Community College, and Roane State Community College.
“The goal is to produce next-generation machine tools and smart manufacturing processes, create a vibrant education and training pipeline to recruit and prepare the future workforce needed to operate these new technologies, and integrate academic, government, and corporate partners to translate these advances into industry leadership and economic impact,” said Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering Professor Tony Schmitz, who is serving in a leading role for SEAMTN. “Having this network centered here will establish the greater Tennessee Valley as the US hub for machine tool research, development, and training.”
In fact, while a large portion of the consortium’s partners are in the Tennessee Valley, the initial group will also include institutions in Huntsville, Alabama, Maple Grove, Minnesota, Youngstown, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Huntington, West Virginia, showing a glimpse of how widespread the impact will be.
SEANTN is launching with three main thrusts: SEAMTN Develops, which is focused on emerging technology and partner-specific projects; SEAMTN Trains, with a goal of training people on machining, cybersecurity, working with the Department of Defense, and apprenticeships, among other things; and SEAMTN Connects, which serves to foster internal and external communication and partnerships.
All of that should help the US regain the lead in manufacturing.
“Right now, the domestic market alone for machining is $325 billion, and we are no longer clearly dominant in the field,” said Schmitz. “One of the goals of SEAMTN is to better position our workers, both current and future, so that we can reclaim the manufacturing mantle.”
The initial aim is to establish three demonstration sites, with a goal of having more than 1,000 visitors per year, per site. Another key aim is to offer online instruction at no cost, with a goal of having 500 registrants per year.
SEAMTN is also committed to improving diversity, seeking to have a minimum of 25 percent from under-represented groups as part of its school- and college-related programs.