YSU commits to nationwide additive manufacturing

Youngstown was in the national spotlight last week as top Obama administration officials announced a $70 million investment in a national manufacturing hub — a place where students and faculty will work alongside industry professionals to conduct research.

The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a fully operating manufacturing facility, will be located on West Boardman Street as an extension of the Youngstown Business Incubator.

NAMII will be funded partially by a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The remainder will come from more than 60 public and private organizations, nine of which are universities.

Youngstown State University, one of the nine, has committed a significant amount to the cause because Ron Cole, director of university communications, said it puts the university in good company.

“Having YSU at the same table and sitting next to and working with prestigious national research universities like Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve speaks very positively about YSU’s important role as an emerging urban research university,” Cole said.

After President Cynthia Anderson devoted most of her State of the University address to the budget cutbacks in fiscal year 2013, Martin Abraham, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, said it is still a great investment because the benefits for students outweigh the cost.

Abraham said YSU has committed matching funds to this project, although a calculation of the specific amount is difficult to provide.  He said the funds are based on the amount of opportunities, classes and involvement YSU receives from the NAMII program.

“We don’t pay anything if we don’t get anything,” Abraham said. “Everybody is always looking for where we’re spending money unwisely.”

Darrell Wallace, director of Additive Manufacturing and Workforce Initiatives, will be the main investigator for the project. Wallace is also a YSU assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

Wallace explained that additive manufacturing involves specific technologies emerging with rapid prototyping and mainstream production volume. It is often used in aerospace, defense and biomedical industries.

“It’s about transitioning technologies into mainstream commercialized applications,” Wallace said. “Additive manufacturing starts with a pile of material, typically melted, and is built up into other shapes. It’s about putting the material they need where they need it.”

Wallace said this method is cost effective to make parts at very low volumes, leaving little to no material waste.

He said the job opportunities focus on education training and workforce development outreach. On a wide spectrum ranging from undergraduate studies, K-12 studies, graduate research, and higher-level research and development employees.

“We’ll be training companies and positions from floor level operators to the product designer,” Wallace said. “The defining factor isn’t where in the food chain you are.”

Wallace said the minimum amount of education required for a job created by NAMII would be an advanced certification.

NAMII will serve as a pilot institute for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Wallace and other advocates have high hopes NAMII will be modeled after in the future.

Officials project 7,200 regional jobs created in the upcoming year, but the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining estimates that next year, not much more than 20 jobs would be created as a result of NAMII. 

But Abraham and Wallace said they believe NAMII will contribute to boosts in revenue and university prestige.

Abraham said about 60 executives and industrial partners will soon get to know YSU students’ capabilities.

“As a result, we expect to be able to place our students in internships and co-ops at these companies, and for permanent employment,” he said. “Our relationships with the partner universities will lead to opportunities for our students to enroll in graduate schools there, and for their undergraduate students to come to YSU for graduate school.”