Last fall, Carnegie Mellon launched the Manufacturing Futures Initiative (MFI), a campus-wide initiative that seeks to bring about a new era of human-machine collaboration to advance manufacturing, the workforce, and economic development.

Innovation in advanced manufactured products is pivotal to national security (from microprocessors and sensors to lightweight materials), energy security (energy generation and storage), and the future of work. Yet the path from new material and process discovery to commercial reality is at best disjointed. For the U.S. to remain a global leader, especially in times of extreme fiscal constraints on science, it will require a revolution.

Launched through a generous donation from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, MFI aims to accelerate manufacturing by collecting and analyzing data throughout the entire manufacturing process, from discovery to commercialization. MFI will accelerate and strengthen Pittsburgh’s position as the country’s leading manufacturing hub by connecting CMU to the innovation pipeline spurred by the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM) and the rest of the Manufacturing USA institutes.

MFI will support and advance five pillars of manufacturing research at CMU: robotics, additive manufacturing, advanced materials, bio-manufacturing, and textiles and fabrics. Cutting across these five pillars are computer science, computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence, design optimization, materials science, public policy, and workforce development.

Currently funded research projects each have a team of faculty who are from at least two different CMU colleges. These interdisciplinary projects range from developing support baths for 3-D printing of soft materials (which will expand the kinds of polymers and biomaterials that can be printed) to more accurately predicting the impacts of emerging technologies on labor markets by combining economics and engineering.

Sandra DeVincent Wolf serves as executive director of this initiative, along with faculty co-directors Gary Fedder and Burcu Akinci. The initiative will attract and collaborate with industry—as well as public, private, and academic partners—to accelerate adoption of new technology through interdisciplinary research on materials discovery, product design, robotics and automation, machine learning, policy, workforce training, and education.