AMPF: Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility

During a long stretch of the 20th century Bell Labs scientists and engineers invented the transistor, the silicon solar cell, the laser, the first communications satellites, the first cellular telephone systems, the basis for digital photography, and the first fiber optic cable systems. These technologies became pillars of the 21st century society and civilization, and have resulted in a combined economic impact worth more than tens of trillions of dollars.

As author Jon Gertner reminds us, Bell Labs’ Mervin Kelly believed that an “institute of creative technology” needed a “critical mass” of talented people to foster a busy exchange of ideas. He was also convinced that physical proximity was everything. Bell Labs housed thinkers, doers and marketers under one roof. It was aptly described as an ideas lab with a factory downstairs. 

Bell Labs wasn’t the first ideas lab with a factory downstairs. When Georgia Tech was established in 1885, it was focused solely on educating and training students in the industrial and mechanical arts. One of its two original buildings featured a workshop with a foundry, designed as a contract shop where students would produce goods to sell.

The center of gravity of advanced manufacturing in the US is shifting. Aerospace, automotive, power generation, original equipment manufacturers and other innovation-driven industries and their suppliers are relocating to the Southeastern U.S. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for Georgia to be at the forefront of the emerging U.S. manufacturing renaissance – creating high-wage, high-value jobs and enhancing our global competitiveness.

The federal government has awarded 17 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MIIs). By design, each MII has a specific technology focus. For example, America Makes focuses on additive manufacturing, whereas MxD focuses on digital manufacturing. While this is a good model for expanding our knowledge in key technology areas, we know that the Factory of the Future will be built on integrating a multitude of technologies from additive manufacturing and advanced composites to robotics and digital manufacturing. To that end, through a public-private partnership framework, Georgia Tech developing an integrated physical/cyber manufacturing technology testbed and demonstration facility for manufacturers – including small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). It is called Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility, AMPF.

At the AMPF, faculty, students and industry partners work with emerging technologies in a seamless fashion. The facility itself is designed to be flexible with the ability to evolve as new technologies become available. This facility will play a pivotal role in a challenge of critical national importance known as the valley of death, or the missing middle: drastically reducing the time, cost and risk to move from basic research to realizing new products or services in the market. This facility will also address a critical need in Georgia and the Southeast by immersing students from Georgia Tech and other Georgia schools, including most notably, the Technical College System of Georgia, TCSG. Their student interns will work side-by-side with practicing engineers from companies which have a presence at AMPF.

The AMPF serves multiple unique purposes: 

  1. Serving as a facility where basic research results are scaled up and translated into implementable technologies for industry partners; 
  2. Creating a demonstration facility for GT and industry and government partners to integrate new technologies – materials, processes, digital models – and “test drive” new technologies for the purpose of minimizing the time, cost and risk of implementing new technologies profitably;
  3. Creating a teaching factory for GT and Georgia students and offering a training ground to build a skilled workforce required for a manufacturing renaissance.

Currently the 14 Street AMPF has 20,000 square feet of space. It will expand over time into a 50,000 square foot facility serving as the hub for interaction to create and realize new ideas – ideally within much larger mixed-use innovation neighborhoods that will attract manufacturers large and small. It will also support technology and other enterprises interested in collaboration. The hub and the larger innovation neighborhoobs could serve as an economic development engine to retain Georgia’s highly skilled engineers and scientists and attract others who share the vision of what the AMPF can accomplish. 

The Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility (AMPF) is a flagship component of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute as a location where early-stage concepts can go from idea to reality. Made possible by a $3 million gift from the Delta Air Lines Foundation, this facility was designed to be an integrated physical and cyber manufacturing technology testbed as well as a demonstration and teaching facility.

Delta Air Lines Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility at Georgia Tech