Additive manufacturing gets $30M boost for regional supply chain

By Justin Dennis, Mahoning Matters

YOUNGSTOWN — The largest investment in seven years for the region’s burgeoning “Tech Belt” will help develop a supply chain link between the U.S. Army and the additive manufacturing industry.

Michael Garvey, president of Center Street Technologies along Ohio Works Drive, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and other partners on Tuesday announced an award of $30 million in federal funding to create new opportunities for small- to mid-sized additive manufacturing (or AM) makers like Center Street, that can fabricate parts or tools on-demand.

The funding would help create a digital network for transferring blueprints to makers in the “Tech Belt” region — which spans from Cleveland to Pittsburgh — or to receive orders from buyers like the U.S. Army.

Ryan in 2012 secured an $85 million investment to form the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now known as America Makes, according to a Tuesday release.

Youngstown’s growing additive manufacturing industry could become part of a larger national effort to test the reliability of the industry for mainstream use, said Bill Walch, senior program manager with National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining of Blairsville, Pa. — the parent company of Youngstown’s America Makes institute — which partnered with Catalyst Connection of Pittsburgh, a private nonprofit consulting firm, to launch the AMNOW program in April.

“We’re going to use this region as the pilot for assessing its capability to be able to produce parts using this additive manufacturing technology and build a ‘prototype’ to demonstrate connecting them to the Army in this digital platform,” he told Mahoning Matters.

“[The Army is] saying they may need a door for a Humvee or a Bradley tank bracket. They can connect to this region through this digital network to get these parts made through a capable supplier,” he said.

Ryan said Tuesday the local additive manufacturing industry isn’t about “chasing old smokestacks.”

“When you look at additive [manufacturing] … there’s going to be millions of jobs created in this sector over the next 5 to 10 years,” he said. “This represents a long-term investment into a long-term strategy that has positioned us, in a way, in the Mahoning Valley to have the likes of the NFL come here and want to partner with us.”