Networks for start ups in advanced manufacturing

The first of the City of Chicago’s strategies for economic growth and job creation is turning Chicago into a leading hub for advanced manufacturing.  Advanced manufacturing is about speed, the phrase refers to technologies or management processes that increase speed and efficiency in manufacturing.  Technologies that enable advanced manufacturing are often described as ‘lean’ or ‘precise’ and many are ‘computer-aided’ like computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).  Administration at The City of Chicago and World Business Chicago are working to make Chicago a destination for advanced manufacturing.

Where can start-ups build advanced manufacturing solutions in Chicago?

One place to watch for start-ups in manufacturing is TechNexus.  This co-working lab and incubator, still under construction within the Civic Opera House on Wacker Drive,  is affiliated with the Illinois Technology Association (ITA’s offices are within TechNexus), an organization devoted to advancing technology in Illinois.  TechNexus will be an ‘entrepreneurial partner’ at the Forbes Reinventing America Summit on manufacturing late this March.  Protection of intellectual property is one of the commitments Tech Nexus has made to the companies that incubate there, and this can be a real benefit in the manufacturing sector.

The hardware company Inventables is also deeply involved in the manufacturing buzz in Chicago. CEO Zach Kaplan is a proponent of 3D Printing for prototyping and small scale manufacturing and is also an adviser at Catalyze Chicago, a co-working community for ‘hardware entrepreneurs’ that opened in the west loop this February.  Inventables has also expressed interest in building 3D printing labs at 1871 and Blue1647 (the company was involved with the 3D Printing labs at Harold Washington Library and the Museum of Science and Industry last year).  Kaplan will be one of several speakers from Chicago speaking at SXSW early this March, his talk will be about the cloud based design software Easel and the Shapeoko desktop milling machine.

A third location for growing start ups in advanced manufacturing is UILabs Digital Lab for Manufacturing, a new, University of Illinois affiliated research facility devoted to advanced manufacturing that was awarded $70 million from the U.S. Department of Defense late last February. The lab’s mission is to use a Digital Manufacturing Commons (DMC) to create online networks.

Caralynn Nowinski, COO and Executive Director of UILabs, says big data plays a big part.

Think of how Facebook connected our personal world, the Digital Lab is going to create online networks of people, companies, machines and factories. We’re going to enable real time collaboration of analysis and big data.

The Digital Lab will be located on the Near North Side, within the Wrigley Innovation Center on Goose Island. ❒

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