Deadline to apply for grant funding is November 13; project will accelerate local manufacturers’ digital transformation, improve region’s PPE manufacturing response, and strengthen supply chains
TROY, Mich.—October 15, 2020—Automation Alley, Michigan’s Industry 4.0 knowledge center and a World Economic Forum Advanced Manufacturing Hub (AMHUB) for North America, has unveiled Project DIAMOnD (Digital, Independent, Agile, Manufacturing on Demand), creating the country’s largest 3D printer network on a blockchain technology platform. The project aims to accelerate digital transformation among Michigan manufacturers and strengthen supply chains by initially developing personal protective equipment (PPE), then expanding into the production of a variety of parts and products to enhance Industry 4.0 manufacturing capabilities in the United States.
Automation Alley has selected Markforged’s line of 3D printers and Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology to implement Project DIAMOnD. The announcement was made by Automation Alley Executive Director and CEO Tom Kelly.
Project DIAMOnD is funded through the $10 million grant Automation Alley received from Oakland County and $2 million grant from Macomb County in June to help each county’s manufacturing base purchase and implement Industry 4.0 technologies for direct support of manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) for the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Project DIAMOnD certifies participating businesses as “essential,” the opportunity could mean the difference between growing a business and going out of business.
“3D printing is accelerating quickly, and Project DIAMOnD will have Michigan setting the pace,” Kelly said. “The goal of Project DIAMOnD is to build a product independence pipeline with 350 of the counties’ small and medium-sized manufacturers and inspire a new generation of manufacturing. And while it begins with PPE, the plan is to grow the pipeline for future projects that strengthen manufacturing and supply chain might in Michigan and throughout the U.S. and lessen our reliance on foreign products.”
Project DIAMOnD grant eligibility is limited to 300 manufacturers from Oakland County and 50 from Macomb County with less than 500 employees and presents the opportunity for even the smallest manufacturers; eligible companies must be identified by November 13. The fast-tracked timeline is necessitated by grant requirements that Automation Alley deliver the 3D printers and train all companies on the Markforged software by December 31. To date, 100-plus companies have been identified.
The application is available at https://automationalley.com/Initiatives/PPE-Resilience-Grant-Program.aspx. Additional information on Project DIAMOnD will also be shared at Automation Alley’s annual Integr8 Industry 4.0 conference on November 9-10. Virtual attendance for Integr8 is complementary and registration information can be found at www.integr8conference.com.
The role of blockchain in Project DIAMOnD
Blockchain in its clearest terms is a decentralized accounting ledger that stores data and records information in real time. It is securely shared by users across multiple, independent computer networks called nodes. Blockchain adds new and unique “blocks” (transactions recorded into a ledger) to a “chain” (a hash or unique cryptographic identifiers that seamlessly links the blocks together) once transactions have been verified through consensus across the network. These records are theoretically immutable, unalterable and more tamper-proof than other databases—thereby increasing trust among users and shining a light on potential cyber intrusions and other fraudulent behaviors. If the data is changed inappropriately, known as a 51% attack, alarms go off to protect the integrity of the network. More information can be obtained in this recent blockchain article by Automation Alley’s Noel Nevshehir.
“The significance of building the Project DIAMOnD network of 3D printers on blockchain technology cannot be overemphasized,” Kelly said. “The sheer number of printers, connected through optimal security technology, puts Michigan on the world stage and democratizes Industry 4.0 application and accessibility for even our smallest manufacturers.”
Following the December 31 training deadline, Automation Alley’s efforts with Project DIAMoND will focus on setting up the governance structure so the platform is decentralized, distributed and accessible.
“Our ultimate and enduring goal for Project DIAMOnD is for Automation Alley to create and support a self-governing ecosystem whereby we establish the mechanism to set up the rules and revise them as necessary so that all manufacturing participants benefit in wealth creation fairly and equitably,” Kelly said.
About Automation Alley
Automation Alley is a World Economic Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing Hub (AMHUB) for North America and a nonprofit Industry 4.0 knowledge center with a global outlook and a regional focus. We facilitate public-private partnerships by connecting industry, education and government to fuel Michigan’s economy and accelerate innovation. Our programs give businesses a competitive advantage by helping them along every step of their digital transformation journey. We obsess over disruptive technologies like AI, the Internet of Things and automation, and work hard to make these complex concepts easier for companies to understand and implement. Visit automationalley.com.
The mission of Automation Alley is to help businesses stay in business by equipping them with the necessary knowledge to leverage the intersections of advanced technologies, systems and people to jumpstart or accelerate a digital path to strategic success.