By Devin Steele
August 28, 2022
BELMONT, N.C. – The half-day, information-packed Building a More Collaborative Advanced Textiles Ecosystem forum, organized by the Defense Alliance of North Carolina (DANC) Science & Technology Committee and NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES), took place at the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College-Kimbrell Campus on August 25.
The event, which supports the Department of Defense and non-governmental markets, brought together key players participating and interested in the smart textiles research, development and production in support of warfighter performance and novel commercial applications. Nearly 100 people from around the state participated in the engaging session.
This was the first of a series of events in support of the NC Defense Manufacturing Community Support Partnership (NC DMCSP).
In her kickoff remarks, Tammy Everett, executive director of the DANC, explained the private, nonprofit’s mission to grow North Carolina’s defense economy in a way that creates new, long-term investment opportunities and, ultimately, jobs. Phil Williams, chair of the Science & Technology at the DANC, provided a program overview early on and engaged the audience throughout the program.
The Alliance’s unique ability to lead government, military, industry and academic partners in collaborative efforts toward common objectives continues to create opportunities for North Carolina while augmenting the capabilities of the nation’s military, she added.
Dr. Fiona Baxter, associate executive director of the NC State University Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) housed in the College of Engineering and assistant director of the NC Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP), presented an overview of the IES. IES helps improve, promote and connect industry to manufacturing solutions and the world-class research of NC State, she said, adding that it has a staff in regional and home offices in all 100 counties of the state. She also reviewed IES’s recent DoD Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) Grants.
Announced in September 2021 after a competitive selection process, the state of North Carolina was chosen to receive the designation as one of five “Defense Manufacturing Communities” in the nation. Through the designation, NC State’s IES was awarded one of five grants under the DMCSP, whose purpose is to make long-term investments in critical skills, facilities, workforce development, research and development and small business support to strengthen the national security innovation base.
The $5 million grant will allow the IES-led Defense Manufacturing Consortia to undertake a five-year, $7.5 million (in total) project in the area of advanced textiles/autonomous wearables and to implement a strategy to address immediate ramp-up needs as companies transition out of COVID-19 restricted operations to longer-term technological opportunities. The consortium involves nearly 20 entities across the state, plus other out-of-state government-funded partners such as Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) in Massachusetts and the ARM (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) Institute in Pennsylvania.
NC DMCSP’s mission, Baxter noted, is to grow textile manufacturer capacity to produce marketable advanced functional fabrics and wearable devices.
Kami Baggett, regional manager at NC State’s IES, provided further insights into its goals and mission.
Experts in the areas of textile R&D, manufacturing and education each offered excited reports on the work their entities are undertaking.
Dr. Andre West, director of the Zeis Textiles Extension and associate professor in the Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM) Department at NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles, discussed resources for textile companies. The Wilson College provides extensive services and world-class equipment and facilities, he noted. He also touched on a recently signed 2+2 program between the Wilson College, Gaston College (GC) and Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC). Focused on rural communities, underrepresented minorities and first-generation college attendees, the program offers dual enrollment in areas such as textile manufacturing, fashion design and more and allows enrollees to transfer to NC State after their first two years at GC or CVCC.
Dr. Jesse Jur, director of Ecosystem Technology at Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), Cambridge, Mass., and also a professor on sabbatical from the NC State Wilson College of Textiles, presented “Advanced Textiles & Manufacturing in the U.S.: What Needs to Happen?” to support the DoD mission and domestic sustainment. He provided a glance at AFFOA’s resources, as well as the research being conducted at AFFOA in conjunction with dozens of partners in the textile, apparel and electronics spaces.
AFFOA, one of 16 Department of Defense Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, is a public-private partnership led by MIT with the aim of rekindling the domestic textiles industry by leading a nationwide enterprise for advanced fiber and fabric technology development and manufacturing, enabling revolutionary system capabilities for national security and commercial markets, he noted. Among action items, AFFOA is working to develop a digital engineering and design platforms to accelerate prototype development, and align and fill gaps in supply chains and for DoD- mission specific needs, Jur said.
Meanwhile, Jasmine Cox, director of Textile Technology Programs & Business Innovation at Textile Technology Center (TTC) at Gaston College, provided an update on the Manufacturing & Textile Innovation Network (MTIN) and its two entities – the TTC and the Manufacturing Solution Center (MSC). The MTIN is a community college partnership that creates jobs in North Carolina, offers workforce development, technology transfer, entrepreneurship and, ultimately enables economic prosperity, she said.
Cox reviewed the unique capabilities of each center and pointed out that each is building new facilities in major capital investment projects to serve the industry. She also went over technology training, certificate and degree programs available at both centers.
Lee Moritz, business development professional, at the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) explained that his center is a statewide business development and technology transitionasset of North Carolina, embedded in community colleges. The NCMBC is the only statewide, military-focused economic development entity in the U.S., and the only NC entity solely focused on growing the defense economy through existing industry, he said.
Interested in joining with us? Visit https://defensealliancenc.org/membership/ to join TODAY!
Devin Steele is owner of Steele Media Group, LLC, which encompasses three d/b/a entities: eTC (eTextileCommunications.com), Steele Creative and Devin Steele Photography. The eTC branch is a website covering the global textile industry with timely, relevant and quality news and information. Steele Creative provides freelance writing and design services for corporations and individuals.
Steele Photography (DevinSteelePhotography.com) specializes in weddings, portraiture, events and corporate functions/products.Steele Media Group, LLC encompasses three d/b/a entities: eTC (eTextileCommunications.com), Steele Creative and Devin Steele Photography. The eTC branch is a website covering the global textile industry with timely, relevant and quality news and information. Steele Creative provides freelance writing and design services for corporations and individuals. Steele Photography (DevinSteelePhotography.com) specializes in weddings, portraiture, events and corporate functions/products.