Indiana has been among the top five states for growth of manufacturing jobs over the past five years. The National Association of Manufacturers recently reported that 16.4 percent of Indiana’s jobs are manufacturing related, making our state the third most manufacturing dependent in the nation.
In March, a core group of Evansville Tech on Tap members began evangelizing to our community in the hopes those within earshot would recognize both the unprecedented threats and opportunities disruptive technologies pose for our manufacturing centric economy.
If ever the proverb “opportunity favors the prepared” applied, it is NOW.
Last month, General Electric announced its first Micro-Factory will open in Louisville, KY. It is an important validation of the gravity of impending impacts when the world’s fifth largest manufacturer launches a very public initiative to expand its move into nimble micro-scale digital manufacturing to shorten their path from “mind to market”. G.E. Appliances VP of Technology acknowledges this effort as a competitive necessity stating: “we have to innovate faster than ever before since we are now competing with companies that apply their rapid electronic products introduction strategy”.
Our Evansville group seeks to create opportunities for people to control rather than simply consume technology. We believe our Innovation Community will be greatly strengthened by democratizing access to the tools driving these rapid changes, placing them within reach of everyone. Our course forward includes the launch of Evansville’s first MakerSpace…Think a Community Center with High Tech Tools, emphasis on community.
We have chosen to focus on three domains we see as critical to the viability of this region’s manufacturing strength: Robotics / Automation + Arduino and other Prototyping boards + Desktop Digital Manufacturing with open source software tools controlling 3D Printing and Desktop CNC milling. These domains also play well in strengthening our region’s relevance in The Internet of Things, which McKinsey Global Institute predicts could result in 1 trillion “things” connected to the internet, impacting a $36 trillion pool of economic value by 2025.
Our hope is to weave together at least two other local MakerSpaces; one centered around younger makers as well as less adept makers, the other centered around artists seeking to integrate technology for their creative expression. At the other end of the spectrum, we are working with the University of Southern Indiana’s new Applied Engineering Center to bring access to the most advanced industrial tooling and manufacturing expertise for our makers who are moving toward product commercialization.
We believe the outcome of this effort will be a highly integrated community of makers spanning virtually all ages and all skills, collaborating to position our region to capitalize on the opportunities of disruptive technologies.