There has been a lot of talk recently about additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, but not many people really understand the concept.
Members of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation received a lesson Thursday at the foundation’s second Industrial Roundtable event from one of the executives involved with the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in downtown Youngstown. The event was held at the Youngstown Country Club in Liberty.
NAMII, which opened in September, is being funded by $30 million from the federal government and $40 million from consortium members, including YSU.
Additive manufacturing is a computer-aided process where products, like a chess piece, can literally be made from scratch and built layer upon layer, as opposed to current methods that usually require raw materials to be melted or forged into a finished product. At this point however, additive manufacturing is still too costly and time intensive, so the mission of the local institute will be to research ways to make the process more user friendly.
Dr. Darrell Wallace, acting deputy director of NAMII, who also works at Youngstown State University, said he has discovered many really don’t understand what additive manufacturing can do.
“The more you are familiar with traditional manufacturing processes, many times that makes it more difficult to understand what this is. We find that young children get it immediately. It’s very intuitive,” Wallace said.
Wallace, who helped write the funding grant for the local institute, said he’ll be joining NAMII full time starting June 1. He said additive manufacturing will never replace traditional methods, but could become another tool in the manufacturing process.
The technology is being used in a variety of fields, including the medical field, with the technology turning two-dimensional CT scans into three-dimensional objects. The institute will work to further develop this technology for uses in the defense, aerospace and consumer electronics industries and beyond.
NAMII also will work to attract businesses to the area who want to use this form of manufacturing.