By John Stran
“Examining Youngstown: Innovation through Advanced Manufacturing” was held on Sept. 27 in Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration to promote additive manufacturing in Youngstown.
The event had three panel discussions with the first panel including Youngstown Business Incubator CEO Barb Ewing, America Makes Executive Director Rob Gorham, YSU President Jim Tressel and Vallourec Star CEO Judson Wallace.
Recordings from U.S. Senator Rob Portman and U.S. Representative Tim Ryan addressing the Examining Youngstown crowd kicked off the event.
“We’re at the very beginning stages of emerging technology and businesses,” said Ryan. “We’re going to grow our way out of economic challenges that we have.”
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has been continually expanding in Youngstown in companies such as Youngstown Business Incubator, America Makes and through labs and classes available at YSU.
“From an additive manufacturing standpoint, YSU is making real impacts,” said Gorham.
Wallace said advanced manufacturing jobs are the main jobs at Vallourec and people are generally surprised when they tour the building and find few people working the floor.
“Most of the labor jobs are done by machines and we hire people to program these machines and supervising them,” Wallace said.
Additive and overall advanced manufacturing may play a role in the future landscape of the city.
Moderator and Washington Examiner reporter Salena Zito prompted a question to Tressel asking for ways to keep YSU students in Youngstown once they graduate.
Tressel said being between two major cities, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Youngstown’s location alone can attract people; but, if there were more opportunities for the workforce, students wouldn’t feel the need to leave.
“We need to grow opportunities so people can and want to come back. Additive manufacturing gives us this chance,” Tressel said.
YSU graduate Zac Divencenzo decided to stay and build a career in Youngstown.
With the help of the YBI, Divencenzo created Juggerbot 3D, which creates engineering-grade equipment using additive manufacturing.
He started the group after noticing a price gap in this equipment. Either the prices were too expensive for local companies to afford or a cheap product not suitable for the job.
The branches of 3D printing reach to more than just engineers as well.
Tressel said when prospective students are touring the campus, he makes it a point that they see the 3D printing opportunities that YSU offers.
“A lot of students from different majors are now using these 3D printing labs creating collaborations between artists and engineers,” Tressel said.
Brett Conner, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center and YSU associate professor of mechanical engineering, described the blend of art and 3D printing in the second panel discussion as additive arts.
“When we think about additive manufacturing, it’s about making stuff functional, but there’s also an aesthetic and creative side to it as well,” Conner said.
The second panel also discussed the issue of these jobs possibly replacing human labor.
“I don’t think we should be afraid of where we’re heading said,” Pat Kiraly, sourcing manager for Vallourec, said.
“With strong leadership we’re going to find the right place for advanced manufacturing to fit,” Kiraly added.