Utah: Leading America’s advanced manufacturing industry

And, a great place for IACMI members to vacation this summer

By Dr. Tulinda Larsen, Executive Director, UAMMI

Dr. Tulinda Larsen, Executive Director, UAMMI

We’re excited to welcome the IACMI Summer 2022 Members Meeting to Utah June 28-30 in Salt Lake City. As an active IACMI member, the Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative, or UAMMI, knows the value of bringing the composites community together in person. Of course, we’re a little biased, but we can’t think of a better state than Utah to convene and connect with our peers in the composites industry and move ideas forward. Make sure to sign up for a special email alert to notify you when registration opens for IACMI’s Summer 2022 Members Meeting.

The composite industry and manufacturing sector in Utah is booming. We’ve been ranked as one of the top three states for business for over 10 years. (Thank you, Forbes!) IACMI has been an important partner with UAMMI, fostering the growth of the composites manufacturing industry in our state.

Hercules missile circa 1950s.

Utah is considered the epicenter for composites and carbon fiber manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing and materials began in Utah during the space race of the 1950’s when two Utah based explosives companies, Hercules and Thiokol, developed expertise to improve missiles with carbon fiber. Orbital ATK, which resulted from the merger of Hercules and Thiokol and now part of Northrop Grumman, along with Hexcel, continued the carbon fiber business. Today, many of the materials and processes used in advanced manufacturing around the world were developed here in Utah.

Not only is Utah a great place to work, live and do business, it’s a fantastic place to vacation with rich recreational opportunities. Sure, we may be known for our winter ski resorts and snow adventures, but summers here are awesome, too. As you make plans to attend the Summer Members Meeting, I encourage you to arrive a few days early or stay a few days after the meeting to mix business with pleasure. The weekend before is the big Hill Air Force flight demonstration. Bring your families!

Salt Lake City, as well as the entire state, has fabulous mountain views and breathtaking red rock landscapes. The area is ideal for road trips, hiking, golfing, and taking advantage of our long days in our wonderful outdoors. You will be a short drive to Park City and, if you’re up for longer road trips, head south to some of Utah’s five amazing national parks, or north to Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

A Closer Look at UAMMI and Utah’s Advanced Manufacturing Industry

UAMMI was formed in 2015 as a public-private-partnership, non-profit, non-fee membership organization to elevate the Utah advanced materials and advanced manufacturing industries. This early beginning has expanded to include more than 200 Utah businesses ranging from startups to large companies developing advanced materials and using advanced manufacturing processes for a wide variety of aerospace components, medical devices, industrial products, recreational equipment and more.

F35s Over Utah. Credit: U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

In addition, Utah’s supply chain has significantly diversified to include manufacturing, material suppliers, and service-based companies performing sophisticated design and analysis. Through all this, Utah has developed a worldwide reputation as a leader in advanced materials, such as composites and carbon fiber, and advanced manufacturing, including digital engineering, 3D printing, and robotics.

In 2020, Utah’s Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity recognized the importance of advanced manufacturing and officially designated advanced manufacturing as one of five industries targeted for economic development. The other four targeted industries include aerospace and defense, financial services, health services, and IT.

Center of Research & Technology (R&T) Excellence – UAMMI staff tour possible site for advanced manufacturing research lab with Emory County Commissioner Lynn Sitterud.

In 2021, Hexcel announced plans to build a Center of Research & Technology (R&T) Excellence, supporting next-generation developments in advanced composites technologies. Once completed in late 2022, the 100,000-square-foot building will be home to a state-of-the-art laboratory where company scientists and researchers will collaborate with customers on the latest composite technology developments for aerospace, space and defense, and industrial applications. It will be the company’s largest center for innovation and product development in North America and a showcase for the company’s advanced composites technology, providing space for future growth and expansion in the years ahead. The company expects to add up to 150 jobs at the center over the next 12 years.

Hexcel ground breaking for new research center.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Ground based strategic deterrent program (GBSD) based at Hill Air Force Base, which replaces the Minuteman III program. Northrop Grumman is developing a manufacturing campus for advanced materials and advanced manufacturing to support this $83 billion program. More than 6,000 jobs will be created to support GBSD.

The University of Utah is providing foundational research into the extrusion of carbon fiber from coal tar. Weber State University is providing market research into the uses of coal-based carbon fiber.

Utah is also leading the way in supporting innovative programs for the recycling of composites and carbon fiber. A recent UAMMI study found that more than 2 million pounds of composites and carbon fiber are dumped in Utah’s landfills every year. The Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity has recognized the need to attract a composite recycling company to Utah.

Again, we’re excited to host IACMI’s Summer Members Meeting and share more about the exciting programs that will guide advanced manufacturing well into the future.