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Last week the Obama administration announced a new National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. The Institute will work on promoting new 3D printing technology. 3D printing is a key strategic industry that is changing the way many products are designed and built, and will likely be another battleground as new industries form around it.

The Youngstown Vindicator’s reports in, $30 million to form investment hub in Youngstown

President Barack Obama’s administration will announce details Today of a partnership between dozens of companies, universities and nonprofit organizations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Its main hub in Youngstown, Ohio, is scheduled to launch by September.

The consortium will develop additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, which will affect a range of industries including defense, aerospace and automotive. The partnering entities will add another $40 million to the pilot program, which beat out proposals from other regions in the country.

The Obama administration says the consortium is part of a plan announced in March to launch future manufacturing hubs around the country.

Financing for the Institute will come from $30 million of federal funding, matched by $40 million from a private industry consortium. The participants consist of around 70 companies, universities, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations. The Institute will serve a tri-state area of northeast Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.

Science Insider describes the initiative, in New U.S. Institute Hopes to Put Its Stamp on Additive Manufacturing,

The institute is the first tangible evidence of the Administration’s plans, announced in March, to invest $1 billion on 15 institutes that would serve as regional centers of excellence across all sectors of manufacturing. Last month the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology strongly endorsed the concept in a report on how the country could regain its edge in advanced manufacturing. The proposal has made little headway in Congress, however, in part because of tight budgets and in part because of Republicans’ traditional distaste for anything that smacks of industrial policy.

So instead of waiting for congressional approval, the White House gave the go-ahead this spring for DOD officials to hold a competition for a proof-of-concept institute that, Fedder says, “would show Congress that this idea can work.” The competition was conducted in record time. Applicants had 35 days to submit their proposals, and 2 months later the winner was announced in a ceremony in Youngstown that featured the acting commerce secretary and other senior Administration officials.

… The new institute “is not a typical research center,” says Ralph Resnick, president of NCDMM, which assembled the team that submitted the winning proposal. “Nobody is guaranteed any particular amount of money” from the contract, he explains. Instead, the institute will hold internal competitions to address problems that its governing board has identified as the most pressing needs facing the industry. In addition to supporting research at industrial and academic labs, each award will include a training component to help community colleges create certificate and 2-year degree programs to ensure that employers can find enough qualified workers to hire.

“The goal is for universities to work more closely with industry,” Fedder says. “What the government wants is an entity to bridge the gap between applied research and turning something into a product. We know that what won’t work is a typical [National Science Foundation (NSF)] center, because there’s no productization and no money for companies to do any research.”

What The Heck Is 3D Printing?

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a new way of making things by applying thin layers. The process is in the early stages of development and promises to revolutionize many areas of manufacturing.

The idea is not unlike how an inkjet printer works. An inkjet printer works using a moving nozzle to spray a very thin set of ink dots onto the paper, creating a 2D image. As the nozzle moves back and forth the image grows until the whole image is seen. Imagine that printer nozzle going back and forth, again and again, spraying layer after layer, building up a 3D object instead of a flat image, and you can get the basic idea of how additive manufacturing works.

The process is largely computer-driven, with a computer-aided design (CAD) program used to design the object, and the info sent to the printer where layer after layer of a molten material, a drying liquid, a powder to be heated, or other material is applied and a model is built up.

Traditional machining cuts away materials, which uses more energy, can take much longer and is not as precise. The object can be quite complex and as precise as the software model.

3D printing is not (yet) cost-effective for making large quantities and mass-production, but is very useful for smaller quantities and for testing production designs.

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