Vegas-Youngstown connection: 3-D printing making its mark

Judging by the exuberant buzz over 3-D printing at this month’s national Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, 2014 promises to be an exciting year for one of the newest kids on downtown Youngstown’s ever-expanding tech block.

The CES typically serves as a harbinger of popularity for up-and-coming gadgets that marvel the masses. And this year, by most all accounts, the three-dimensional printer emerged as the hands-down star of the show.

The expansive 3-D printing area of the show amazed crowds of 150,000 people with the variety of the printer’s creations, — from toys to tea cups to chocoloate candy to iPhone cases.

During the show, Las Vegas became the center of the universe for oohs and ahhs over the wonders of additive manufacturing. That reaction reflects well on Youngstown, which reigns as the center of the world for research on the cutting-edge technology at America Makes.

America Makes success stories

From our vantage point, America Makes is destined to build exponentially on its excellent track record established in its first full year of operation in 2013. Numbers provided by America Makes, formerly known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, tell the story of its multitude of successes last year:

$45 million government commitment

$9.5 million research investment from a growing list of 82 partners across the U.S.

103,000 American students reached through America Makes’ partnership with MakerBot Academy. The partnership aims to ensure every American school is equipped with at least one 3-D printer

More than 2,500 people who visited and drank more than 6,000 cups of coffee at the America Works headquarters in a nondescript former furniture warehouse on West Boardman Street downtown.

Just last week, President Barack Obama sang the praises of Youngstown’s America Makes in a speech at another new federally chartered manufacturing hub in Raleigh, N.C.

Given all the hubbub, some may lose sight of the larger mission of America Makes: boosting the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy to global dominance. Toward that end, the massive appeal demonstrated in Las Vegas for 3D technology illustrates the potential of additive manufacturing and Youngstown’s pivotal role in that development for years and decades to come.

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