The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute’s work became clear on Wednesday, as the organization unveiled its first project selections, awarding $4.5 million to seven companies and universities to begin research and development.
NAMII, which consists of more than 65 universities, private companies and nonprofits, issued a call for project proposals on Nov. 27, about three months after the consortium was established with $30 million in federal funding and an additional $40 million in matching funds from its membership, which includes industry powerhouses such as Northrop Grumman and Boeing, along with public and private institutions such as Youngstown State University.
YSU submitted a proposal, but it was not selected.
The $4.5 million awarded Wednesday will be matched with $5 million from the awarded project teams, which will work to make advancements in additive manufacturing by helping to further commercialize it and develop better workforce training and education to implement the technology across various manufacturing sectors.
Among those selected to lead and direct NAMII’s first round of projects are Case Western Reserve University, Penn State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Avon Lake-based RP+M and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. The leaders will be assisted by eight universities and 25 industry partners, among others.
Additive Manufacturing uses three-dimensional software that draws up a detailed blueprint, which is then transmitted to a specialized machine that uses plastics, metals or resins to print a product layer by layer, cutting out costly material and labor in the process.
Hurdles to further commercializing the technology still remain, however, such as the speed at which products can be manufactured and constraints on the size of what can be produced, as well as the material from which products can be made.
The federal government has deemed the technology a priority, with Western Europe and parts of Asia already far ahead of the U.S. in terms of studying it.
In its call for proposals, NAMII asked its membership to focus on the kinds of materials that can be used, production speeds and the manufacturing process and its bearing on quality.
“NAMII’s fundamental objective is to spawn the creation of new, innovative products and the corresponding U.S. jobs to support them based on the unique capabilities of additive manufacturing,” NAMII Director Ed Morris said in a statement.
Wednesday’s announcement should help staunch the consortium’s critics, who in recent weeks have called into question the federal government’s investment in its work, after the president, during his State of the Union speech erroneously said NAMII’s West Boardman Street headquarters in downtown Youngstown is home to a bustling work center.
In reality, as Morris conceded in a recent interview with The Vindicator, the facility has been in a final stage of renovation as NAMII prepares for incoming work.
The announcement also provides clearer insight on the research and development the public has heard about for months now with few details.
A review of NAMII’s management structure and project kickoff meetings will take place during the first week of April at the consortium’s headquarters in Youngstown.
A second call for projects will go out in June as well.