KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)--American manufacturing has been on the decline for years. Furniture builders, automotive workers, electronics makers and thousands of other workers have watched their jobs go overseas.
That's why engineers at Oak Ridge National Laboratories are developing new technology to bring manufacturing jobs back home.
"We're going to help mature this technology to take it from prototyping to manufacturing. And number two, we can take existing companies that are interested in being more competitive and introduce them to the technology, so that they can make new products," said Lonnie Love, Group Leader for ORNL's Automation and Robotics Manufacturing Group.
It all happens at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Hardin Valley. Special machines melt down powdered metal, then use lasers to build it back up.
Love said, "this is like bees building a honeycomb. You're actually building parts up, you're growing them layer, by layer, by layer."
Engineers at the MDF can build nearly anything. From prosthetic limbs to robotic hands; All at a fraction of the cost of traditional manufacturing. Love said "additive manufacturing" is the future of American industry.
"We can start to get companies that we don't even know what they can make yet, to come in here look at the technology and have a vision for what they can create with this technology," he added.
One thing it's sure to create? Jobs. Biomedical development, automotive assembly, robotics....What Love called, "high value jobs."
He added, "If we can start to increase manufacturing, there will be not only new manufacturing jobs, but support jobs that go along with it."
He also expects East Tennessee to "become a hub. Not only for companies that make this type of equipment, but also companies that are interested in manufacturing this type of equipment."
ORNL expects hundreds of companies from across the country to come to the demo center over the next few years.
The DOE sponsored the project.