Troy-based Automation Alley, Michigan’s Industry 4.0 knowledge center, has unveiled Project DIAMOnD (Digital, Independent, Agile, Manufacturing on Demand), with the goal of creating the country’s largest 3-D printer network on a blockchain technology platform.
The project aims to accelerate a digital transformation among Michigan manufacturers and strengthen supply chains by initially developing personal protective equipment, 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 3-D 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 a $10 million grant Automation Alley received from Oakland County and a $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 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.
“3-D printing is accelerating quickly, and Project DIAMOnD will have Michigan setting the pace,” says Kelly. “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 fewer than 500 employees and presents the opportunity for even the smallest manufacturers. Eligible companies must be identified by Nov. 13.
The fast-tracked timeline is necessitated by grant requirements that Automation Alley deliver the 3-D printers and train all companies on the Markforged software by Dec. 31. To date, more than 100 companies have been identified.
The application is available here. Additional information on Project DIAMOnD will be shared at Automation Alley’s annual Integr8 Industry 4.0 conference Nov. 9-10. Virtual attendance for Integr8 is complementary and registration information can be found here.
“The significance of building the Project DIAMOnD network of 3-D printers on blockchain technology cannot be overemphasized,” Kelly says. “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.”
Blockchain 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 “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 percent attack, alarms go off to protect the integrity of the network.
Following the Dec. 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 says.