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Advanced manufacturing is vital for the economic well-being of the country; it is a sector in which substantial job growth is possible. Laser-based machine tools and machine vision manufacture, mark, and inspect everything from cars and pipelines to the semiconductor chips in mobile phones. The field continues to advance, with higher power and shorter pulse lasers; and greater understanding of new materials, such as the use of new soft x-ray microlithography tools and materials for patterning the finest details on electronic chips for use in mobile phones and computers.

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, allows machines to make a range of customized products directly from electronically transmitted designs, saving costly material in the process. These advanced printers can create objects ranging from prosthetic limbs and functional human tissue to jet engine parts and shoes. The United States can be a strong competitor in custom, precision, and high added-value manufacturing thanks to optics and photonics.