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Youngstown’s future linked to the future of latest technology

Published: Mon, October 1, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Fifty years ago or so, it was not uncommon for international visitors to come to the Mahoning Valley, where they would visit Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co.’s laboratory or a U.S. Steel Corp. mill or the tiny campus of Youngstown University to marvel at the latest developments in steel technology.

Just 50 days ago, only a handful of people in Youngstown knew that Youngstown was on the cusp of entering a new phase as a mecca for the latest form of manufacturing, 3D printing. And even when the announcement came in mid-August that the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute would be headquartered here, there were probably more skeptics than believers.

But even the most hardened skeptics are being converted.

Reality check

Last Thursday a ribbon cutting was held at 236 W. Boardman St. just a few weeks after workers began converting an old warehouse into a home for the newest of technologies.

The idea of printing an object in super-thin layers of metals, plastics and resins sounded improbable, if not impossible, to anyone who hadn’t been paying attention to the evolution of additive manufacturing from science fiction to scientific reality.

But on the pages of The Vindicator, on Vindy.com and on every television station in town people could see three dimensional objects that had been produced by 3D printers.

There were stories of how 3D already is changing the way things are being made — even the way medicine is being practiced. Today doctors can use 3D printing to create an exact replica of a patient’s skull before performing a delicate brain operation. Tomorrow a 3D printer will be able to create a customized joint right in the operating room during hip replacement surgery. And the day after tomorrow, there is the possibility that printers will create soft organs using biological building blocks that will eliminate the threat of rejection of donor tissue by the host.

Hundreds of people and institutions have played a role in helping Youngstown land the innovation institute.

Not long after the initial announcement, Vindicator editors had the opportunity to sit down with three of the key movers: Jim Cossler, who likes to describe himself as chief evangelist for the Youngstown Business Incubator; Michael Garvey, president of M7 Technologies in Youngstown, and Dr. Martin Abraham, dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Youngstown State University.

A learning experience

They talked about the relatively short history of the technology, the cooperative efforts of 60 private companies, nonprofit and education organizations and government funding that made the institute possible. And they talked about the enormous potential of additive manufacturing to this region and to the United States.

To recite just a few salient points among many, Cossler noted that the business incubator wouldn’t be getting the $70 million prize that everyone was talking about; it was taking on the task of readying the building.

Abraham explained that there are places where additive manufacturing was already being done, but the Youngstown institute would be taking it to the next level. It will be working with a three-year grant, and he predicted the institute would be demonstrating new 3D technologies within two or three years.

Youngstown makes sense because of its position between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, a geographic area that U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles has been touting as the technology corridor.

And Garvey talked about the inevitable emergence of additive manufacturing in industry, medicine and defense. “It’s gonna happen: Why not in Youngstown?” he said.

Thursday’s opening made it clear that there is no reason for it not to happen in Youngstown. It’s already happening.


1Spiderlegs(160 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Some people don't want anything in Youngstown to succeed. I get that, though I disagree with them. I'm quite content to let these people live in misery while the rest of us embrace the changes around us. The way I see it is that if we even get only 500 jobs from this, far less than the 7,000 jobs foreseen, we've jolted the local economy.

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2walter_sobchak(2587 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I don't believe most people quite understand just how huge this is for the Mahoning Valley. We are not talking about pie-in-the-sky projects like a blimp or airplane factory that were questionable at best since the demand for their end product was not there. We now have YSU as the hub for advanced technology that garnered $40M in private research funds from some of the world's largest and most prestigious companies. YSU is also now linked with institutions of higher learning such as Case Western Reserve and Carnegie-Mellon. This will cast the area in a good light instead of just being known as a hot-bed for organized crime, murder, and extremely corrupt politicians.

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3DwightK(1520 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Walter's right. This is an enormous opportunity and it's clear the leadership of the project understand that. I'm very excited to see how the are can grow. Pittsburgh reinvented itself successfully with healthcare and universities. It woud be great to see Youngstown do the same with technology and innovative manufacturing techniques.

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