YSU receives grant: Manufacturing consortium will be built downtown

Pedro Cortes will be leading the new hub and spoke consortium for hybrid manufacturing at the Excellence Training Center. Photo by Henry Shorr / The Jambar

By Henry Shorr

Youngstown State University received a $2.3 million grant from the Air Force research laboratory to develop a hub-and-spoke consortium for hybrid manufacturing in the region. Pedro Cortes, assistant professor in the material science and electrical engineering department, will be leading the program. 

“This is a grant that is pretty much done in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Labs, with Georgia Tech, University of Texas at El Paso and the Youngstown Business Incubator. We are really excited because they created this hub in the northeast part of Ohio and [it] can serve the whole region,” Cortes said.

The benefits of a hub-and-spoke model, according to Cortes, is greater specialization from different labs in specific parts of the project.

“We have, for instance, [University of Texas at El Paso]: they have expertise on infrared cameras, so they are going to help us a lot on understanding distortion and we’re bringing in expertise from Oak Ridge that has plenty of scientists that have been remodeling for years, if not for decades … Having the hub is very enriching, there are a lot of skills,” Cortes said.

The grant allows for the purchase and installation of a 3D printing Mazak system which will be installed at the Excellence Training Center downtown, run by Jackie Ruller. This system, one of the first to be installed in the United States, uses a different method of printing that allows for more flexibility.

“The machine that we are going to be using is produced by Mazak and it uses wire. This is kind of unique in the idea of additive manufacturing 3D printing because you bring down cost … And also, because it’s hybrid it has subtracting, which is the common technology for removing scrap material or some parts of the whole. You are doing everything in a single shot,” Cortes said.

There will be multiple YSU staff members on this project. Associate professors Brian Vuksanovich, Holly Martin and Kyosung Choo will oversee certain aspects of the project. YSU students will also have plenty of opportunities to be involved with the project.

“They are going to have the opportunity to see the project and also get involved with the testing – undergrad students as well as graduate students. There are already students being hired onto the project, so they are going to have really hands-on opportunities on that very unique system,” Cortes said.

He explained that his role will be to oversee the project and make sure the team involved is hitting their deliverables on time, all while bringing his own expertise on 3D printing and modeling to the project. He went on to describe the goals of this project.

“In the short term, we already have some milestones and some deliverables,” Cortes said. “We need to provide the scientific foundations of how the machine works … there is a learning curve so in the short term we need to fully understand how the machine works.”

While there is still much to learn for the team on this project, Cortes has hopes the results they produce will be well worth the effort.

“In the long-term, we expect to create molds for the automotive and the aerospace industry that they actually can have and test and show why this could be the solution, versus typical powder based electronic manufacturing from a safety and an economic point of view. The long-term [goal] is to show that this is a solution for 3D printing at least for these two sectors,” Cortes said.

He also believes this project could give YSU an edge over other engineering programs.

“In the future, we can use that system to explore new materials and new processes, and that gives an advantage to the students to have that edge that other universities don’t have,” he said.

Cortes also noted the business value in this project. He explained the Youngstown Business Incubator’s important part of the project. The incubator has extensive experience in attracting businesses and industries, which will boost the economics of this project. He also wanted to express that anybody who is interested can come to the Excellence Training Center to see this system.

“The machine is at the ETC, so if you ever want to stop by make contact with Jackie Ruller. We’d love to have visits from faculty, from students, but also from businesses so they could see why this could be an option for what they are trying to produce,” Cortes said. “And still, we are heavily manufacturing in this region, so I’m pretty sure this could be an option for a lot of industries in the region.”