Additive manufacturing could be both a tool to make existing companies more innovative and efficient and an industry sector of its own, drawing in new companies.
A group in Northeast Ohio has unveiled a new report highlighting the possibilities for 3D printing and other additive manufacturing processes.
The Additive Manufacturing Roadmap for the Northeast Ohio Region was created by representatives from Team NEO and MAGNET in Cleveland, the Youngstown Business Incubator and America Makes in Youngstown, manufacturers, higher education institutions and more.
This is the group's second additive manufacturing road map. The first was released in 2016.
"The timing just seemed really right to do this," said Jay Foran, senior vice president of industry and innovation at Team NEO.
The technology's value was made clear early during the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies worked to prototype personal protective equipment, Foran said. And beyond the immediate benefits are the opportunities for growth. JobsOhio has identified additive manufacturing as a "core strategy" toward growing manufacturing across the state, Foran said, and MAGNET's recently released Manufacturing Blueprint emphasized the importance of the adoption of new and emerging technologies in the region.
The report was shared as part of a virtual event Aug. 4. During the event, Glenn Richardson, managing director of advanced manufacturing and aerospace at JobsOhio, made the business case for additive manufacturing, noting that there is strong competition across the country. By 2024, global demand for additive manufacturing machinery and services will reach about $27 billion, Richardson said. That's more than double what it was last year.
Richardson said JobsOhio wants to make the state a "center of excellence" in additive manufacturing, working with the additive cluster in Northeast Ohio, adding an additive cluster chapter in the southwest/central part of the state and collaborating with organizations like America Makes. The goal is to attract new manufacturers and service organizations to Ohio.
That aligns with the overall goal of the region's new road map, too.
The vision described in the report is to create a "globally recognized" additive manufacturing cluster in the region, building on Northeast Ohio's existing industrial design, supply chain and training resources. To achieve this, the region needs to work to promote awareness of the benefits of additive manufacturing, encourage adoption of the technology and train a skilled talent pool. Specific initiatives in the report include promoting programs about additive manufacturing careers at the K-12 level, developing a targeted business attraction plan and creating a list of service bureaus by "materials, machine type and capacity."
Manufacturing is a crucial pillar of Northeast Ohio's economy. It accounts for more than one-fifth of the region's total gross regional product, according to the report, which noted that additive manufacturing could present a competitive advantage as manufacturers grow more productive.
During the event, Bob Pelletier, a retired engineering manager at Parker Hannifin, shared some thoughts on how additive manufacturing can change the industry. Additive manufacturing changes what's possible in terms of design, he said, allowing for more customization or the creation of less waste. It can speed up the time to market. And it shakes up the supply chain, because companies don't need as much inventory on hand.
Jacob Duritsky, vice president of strategy and research at Team NEO, said the impact of additive manufacturing is expected to be less than that of the Internet of Things, which has more widespread adoption potential. Still, the technology could make a real difference in output in certain sectors, he said. The report identifies those as construction products, medical and dental manufacturing, metal production, plastics and rubber products, and transportation equipment. Depending on adoption in those sectors, GDP in the region could grow by $500 million to $1.5 billion by 2025, the report noted.
Duritsky said there's potential for other growth as well, since the report is looking at "the base as it was, not as it could be." For instance, it doesn't capture companies that began making PPE during the pandemic. And the report only accounts for growth in the five sectors it identified.
"So I think there's potentially upside in those numbers," Duritsky said.
The team has learned from its previous road mapping processes. For example, Duritsky said they've learned that showing "proof points" to companies is something they needed to improve. For its industrial IoT road map, the team created an assessment tool to help companies figure out where they were in terms of readiness for the technologies and in terms of need. For additive manufacturing, it might mean putting together case studies to show companies what the technology could do in their shop or on their plant floor.
"It's one thing to lead companies on the journey and let them figure it out," Duritsky said. "It's another to really put that ROI in front of them and really start to articulate the business case to them in a way that deals with their sector and deals with their size and deals with their industry, specifically."
The team also has learned the importance of getting an "ecosystem-level view" of the technology at hand, Duritsky said. Manufacturers, service providers, educational institutions — they all need a seat at the table.
And it's not just about creating a report. It's about creating the "strategic buy-in" of that path forward, Duritsky said.
Doing this kind of industry cluster work can feel "amorphous," said Barb Ewing, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator. But without an intentional strategy, work is going to happen in isolation, instead of in collaboration. This kind of work builds partnerships and leads to new opportunities, she said.
For manufacturing to succeed going forward, people need to understand the "interdependent nature" of the work that needs to happen, Duritsky said. It's not just about additive manufacturing or the industrial IoT.
"It's about modern products and processes. It's about new technologies," he said. "But it's about the aligned talent that helps drive those forward, right? It's about the education system that's in place. It's about the supply chain assets. It's about, to some extent, things beyond even our control, like state and federal policies, which help us think about that environment differently."