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Ohio alliance wins $30 million for 3-D printing institute

By: Chuck Soder

August 20, 2012

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (Aug. 20, 11:15 a.m. ET) — A group of federal agencies has awarded $30 million to an alliance between technology-focused organizations in the Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh areas.

The alliance — which consists of a long list of companies, colleges and nonprofits — aims to create an institute that would work to speed up the development of technologies related to additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing. Participating organizations have committed to matching that money with another $40 million.

The Youngstown Business Incubator will serve as the central hub for the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. The incubator is in the process of renovating a 12,000-square-foot building that will house the institute’s main laboratory.

Additive manufacturing involves depositing thin layers of material, often plastic, one on top of the other to create what sometimes can be extremely complex parts. The institute will work to “bridge the gap between basic research and product development” for additive manufacturing technologies, according to a news release from the White House. The institute also aims to provide equipment and other assets that could be shared by small manufacturers and other companies using additive manufacturing techniques. Plus, the institute plans to help educate and train workers to use those methods.

The proposal was led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing in Latrobe, Pa., with “significant leadership” from universities and organizations throughout the region, according to a message posted on the website for the TechBelt initiative. The initiative is a five-year effort led by several economic development agencies that aim to create jobs and attract grant money to Ohio and Pennsylvania by getting innovators in Northeast Ohio and Greater Pittsburgh to work together.

TechBelt collaborations have attracted federal money in the past, but never this much, said Rich Overmoyer, who through a Pittsburgh consulting firm helps staff the TechBelt initiative.

“This is the biggest TechBelt win to date, and it is a platform for future wins,” he said.

The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute will serve as a pilot for what President Barack Obama hopes will be a total of 15 institutes focusing on different manufacturing technologies. In March, he announced a plan to invest $1 billion to create the institutes, but that proposal would have to be voted on by Congress.

The $30 million came from five federal agencies: the departments of defense, energy and commerce, the National Science Foundation and NASA.

The collaboration includes a total of 40 companies, nine research universities, five community colleges and 11 nonprofits in Ohio and Pennsylvania.