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Commerce chief Penny Pritzker tours Goose Island digital manufacturing lab

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker toured the Goose Island Digital Manufacturing And Design Innovation Institute Friday, joking that she needs a little practice using the high-tech equipment.

The institute, a digital manufacturing laboratory, is a public-private institution that seeks to bring innovation to industry.

It opened earlier this year and is one of six National Network for Manufacturing Innovation programs, created by President Barack Obama.

Pritzker was shown some of the technology in use at the institute, which is a UI LABS collaboration, and includes a machine that uses light to guide a technician through her work to make sure all steps are followed and no errors are made.

Using the Light Guide Systems, Pritzker followed the instructions, which beamed down to the white table.

She knew which pieces to grab, because a light illuminated the right container. When she made a mistake, a bright red light shone on the table, startling Pritzker.

In the end, she was able to put together a fuel injector for a diesel engine.

But she joked, “I need a little practice.”

Later, Pritzker, who was joined in the tour by Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren and Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, told reporters the program is a “critical component of America’s competitiveness agenda and our commitment to keep America and the United States on the cutting edge of innovation research and manufacturing.”