Officials from across the country traveled to Youngstown on Thursday for the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute’s first comprehensive meeting, bringing representatives from more than 65 private businesses, universities and nonprofit organizations under one roof for the first time.
Northrop Grumman, Honeywell and Boeing were just a few of the heavyweights on hand for a meeting intended to outline the consortium’s mission and operational framework as it seeks to pioneer cutting-edge advancements in additive-manufacturing technology.
Additive manufacturing uses advanced software to create three-dimensional images from which machines create unique programs to print a product layer-by-layer, using metals, plastics and resins.
With Thursday’s meeting came a clearer focus and a better understanding of each member’s role within the institute’s efforts and a briefing on how funds will be allocated.
Scott Deutsch, spokesman for the consortium’s leader, the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, said the group expects proposals for research and development to begin coming in at the beginning of the year, which means activity at the downtown manufacturing hub will begin to pick up soon afterward.
Funding for the projects will be competitive. A call for project proposals will be issued to consortium partners, who then will draw up plans that outline what each partner wants to work on, how long projects will take and how costly those projects will be.
Additive-manufacturing technology is limited. Hurdles remain for the types of materials that can be used and how fast a product can be built using various methods. There also are constraints on the size of parts that can be produced.
“Our members will include input that identifies technology and work-force gaps that are impeding integration of additive manufacturing into the mainstream,” said NAMII’s interim director, Ralph Resnick, who also serves as president of NCDMM. “Filling those gaps will then form project ideas.”
Deutsch said it remains unclear at this point what kind of projects consortium partners will propose. But he added that they could range from material science, such as adapting a certain type of material for use in additive manufacturing, to gearing the technology toward new applications or a certain industry.
When those proposals are submitted at the beginning of next year, a government board and consortium partners will select which projects to fund and move forward.