Senator Brown calls for more innovation hubs

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Senator Sherrod Brown, left, examines a piece created by a fused deposition modeling process, or FDM. Clark Patterson, right, operates the FDM 3D printing-impeller at NAMII on Friday. Photo by Jordan D. Uhl/The Jambar

Ed Morris, director of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, held up a blue, plastic chess rook during a press conference on Friday.

He drew the audience’s attention to a staircase winding around the interior walls of the roughly two-inch tall piece. He said no traditional manufacturing process could accomplish such a feat, but additive manufacturing machinery can.

It’s called fused deposition modeling, and it’s the most familiar method of 3D printing. Products are manufactured one layer at a time from the bottom up.

Scott Deutsch, Manager of Communications and Special Programs at the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining said.

FDM is also one of the few additive manufacturing workstations Senator Sherrod Brown witnessed in action during his tour of NAMII on Friday.

He took this opportunity to herald legislation, which he plans to introduce soon, that would create a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, which would advance President Barack Obama’s goal of creating up to 15 more innovation hubs similar to NAMII, an initiative he announced during his State of the Union address in February.

Brown said NAMII will make the Mahoning Valley the leader in 3D printing.

“There’s something happening in the Valley and it’s really the geographic and intellectual center of it, hence the term ‘teaching hospital,’” Brown said.

Brown’s legislation would facilitate the creation of more public-private partnerships, like NAMII, that would “ensure that the United States can out-innovate the rest of the world,” according to a press release from Brown’s office.

“The engineers in this crowd understand this better certainly than I do or anybody else that how important it is that when we do innovation in this country that we also do the manufacturing here,” Brown said. This would lead to perpetual domestic job growth.

Brown is asking for $1 billion in funding from the Federal Government, but his efforts may be held up by the ongoing budget battle and sequester.

“If we don’t get the money we need entirely, the President will, I hope, come up with Defense Department assistance and some other ways that are already in the budget,” Brown said.