$70M high-tech manufacturing investment includes Western Pa.
By Thomas Olson
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 12:02 p.m.
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
The federal government on Thursday introduced a $70 million partnership to support high-tech manufacturing that includes about a dozen companies, universities and other groups in Western Pennsylvania.
The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute will work to promote and advance 3D printing, a manufacturing technology used to make products and components from a digital, computer-based model. The institute will be based in Youngstown, Ohio, and largely support the defense industry, the White House said.
The effort could spawn spinoff companies and hundreds of jobs in Western Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio and northern West Virginia within a few years, said officials involved.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is a cutting-edge technology whereby thin layers of a material are placed atop one another using a digital blueprint, producing an exacting component or product. The process saves more than 50 percent of the energy expended in conventional manufacturing, according to Department of Energy estimates.
“We're thrilled,” said David Burns, president of ExOne Co. LLC of North Huntingdon. A partner in the project, ExOne makes products using additive manufacturing, as well as produces additive manufacturing machines.
“This is a clear acknowledgement on the part of the national government that we need to invest in emerging manufacturing technologies if we're going to rejuvenate manufacturing in the United States,” said Burns, whose company employs 150, one-third of them locally.
“We're really pleased it's coming to the corridor between northeast Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania,” he said, referring to what some have begun calling, the “Tech Belt.”
At its North Huntington plant, ExOne makes intricate metallic products like a three-dimensional seahorse door pull. Items for industrial, household and artistic uses — made out of powdered metal using additive manufacturing technology — would be impossible to make using traditional machining methods,
The partnership will be managed by the Unity Township-based National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, which coordinated the proposal to locate the institute in the tri-state region. The center was founded about 10 years ago to help smaller manufacturers improve their production processes and better serve defense and other industries.
“Within three years, we're hoping to create more than a dozen startups and 500 to 1,000 jobs between the three states,” said Ralph Resnick president of the center in Unity. It leases space at the headquarters campus of Kennametal Inc., another partner.
Kennametal CEO Carlos Cardoso said in a statement that the three-state, private-public partnership should “bring the home field advantage back to the manufacturing heartland and prepare a generation of skilled technicians we desperately need.”
Other partners include Allegheny Technologies Inc., Plextronics Inc., Carnegie Mellon University, Robert Morris University, Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Ben Franklin Technology Partners and others.
CMU has been doing additive manufacturing research since at least the early 1990s. Gary Fedder, director of the university's Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, said CMU will provide the institute with innovative ideas and manufacturing techniques and solutions.
The Defense Department and four other federal agencies will provide $30 million of the $70 million project. The other $40 million will come from the projects' more than 60 partners, including those in Western Pennsylvania.
Robert Morris, for instance, is contributing $350,000 to the partnership, said Dean Maria Kalevitch. Its students and faculty will conduct additive manufacturing research.
“The ultimate goal is to drive innovation in this relatively new technology and make American manufacturing more competitive, as well as create new technology for commercialization,” said Barbara Ewing, chief operating officer of the Youngstown Business Incubator, whose offices are being renovated to accommodate the new institute.
Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached a 412-320-7854 or at email@example.com.
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