The digital manufacturing revolution has been brewing for decades. Now, it has exploded across the popular imagination in the form of 3D printing. And Chattanooga has a monumental role to play.

A successful revolution often requires two things, among others: an event that sparks the public’s passion, and a charismatic leader to guide that passion as it evolves into action, and eventually, into change. You could say that Maker Day, recently held at the Downtown Public Library, was just that event. And thus, Chattanooga is poised to assume its place among the first cities across the country, rallying the troops and leading the charge.

Digital manufacturing’s vanguard is robotics. 3D printers are a special breed of robot, the charismatic member of the clan. The technology matured in the manufacturing industry for decades, and now, the rise of accessible 3D printers in the market is connecting more and more people with product design and development, and with manufacturing in general.

It is a deeply powerful and compelling movement, brimming with hope and promise. 3D thinking has the potential to energize STEM students, to reinvent public libraries, to connect business, engineering and science students. In short, it is a potent force aiding many of our most pressing societal goals. And yet, it’s cool. In the same way that the advent of desktop computers, the Internet, and social networking have miraculously made software engineers sexy, the nation is becoming enamored with 3D printing.

Travis Good, a national thought leader on Making, recently visited Chattanooga, drawn by the goings-on at the Public Library’s 4th Floor. Reflecting on his visit, he was kind enough to share some of his thoughts with us:

Only two people that I know of from the 11 people I met had been in Chattanooga more than three years. That’s amazing! Why did they come? Opportunity: low cost/high quality living, a business-friendly environment and the amazing infrastructure that allows them to work in Chattanooga at no competitive disadvantage.

Pour into the above fertile mix the elements of the maker movement, and a place like Chattanooga is set for a renaissance! With the right leadership Chattanooga can…be a beacon for others to emulate.

So, here we are: the STEM schools, middle and high schools, even elementary schools; UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science and UTC College of Business; The Downtown Public Library, (especially the 4th Floor) and the UTC Lupton Library; The Creative Discovery Museum and the Hunter Museum; CO.LAB and Chatt*Lab; the state government and the local government. We all have embraced the vision of Chattanooga as a leader in this manufacturing revolution. And as a result, we all are deeply connected, bridged by our new role in a movement that is spreading across the globe.

For the rest of the world, an exciting future awaits. For Chattanooga, the future is already here.

– Mike Bradshaw, CO.LAB Co-director, GIGTANK Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Click below to view our photo album from Maker Day on Facebook.