November 21, 2016

Since it was established in 2014, the Digital Manufacturing & Design Innovation Institute’s membership has grown rapidly to include nearly 300 partners. But if you ask the Institute’s interim executive director, Tom McDermott, the quantity isn’t what excites him most.

“More interesting than the number is that the capabilities of the membership of DMDII have never been more robust,” he said, speaking before an audience of more than 50 partners gathered for the Institute’s Nov. 17 Technology Showcase.

The quarterly event gives partners from large industrial companies, universities, and small and medium-sized manufacturers a chance to hear from DMDII project teams and explore new ways to collaborate. Recently, a new type of organization has been added that broadens the capabilities of the network even further: startups.

One goal of the showcase is “getting people into the room to see if something new and better can be created as a result,” McDermott said. Having access to nimble companies with innovative technology is attractive to DMDII partners looking to apply new tools to address manufacturing-related challenges.

For startups, the event is an opportunity to network with experts from larger, more established organizations.

The interaction is helpful for determining “how to apply the technology to fit the market,” said Andrew Xue, founder and president of Actvcontent, a startup whose tool enables real-time factory-wide visibility throughout the manufacturing process.

“It provides perspective on what the problems are, and positions them in a new light,” he added.

Four startups were invited to participate in the Nov. 17 event based on their alignment with the day’s three themes: end-to-end design, augmented reality, and machine-to-machine analytics. In addition to Actvcontent, participating startups included MetaMorph, a developer of model-based systems engineering tools; APX Labs, a provider of wearable software technology; and Tulip, a platform for digital work instructions.

The Technology Showcase was divided into three parts, structured around the themes; each themed segment featured a DMDII project presentation, startup pitch, and panel discussion. For the Technology Showcase’s keynote address, Lou Rassey, founder and CEO of investing and consulting firm Two Roads Group, discussed the dramatic change underway in the manufacturing industry.

“Manufacturing is moving from a cost center and execution engine to a driver of innovation,” he told the audience. Manufacturers are facing an “amazing and unprecedented disruption from digital,” he added.

Given their commitment to DMDII and its mission to transform American manufacturing, the DMDII partners in the room appeared ready for the challenge.