Thursday, August 16, 2012

Obama initiative provides $70M boost in region - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

A $70 million initiative to promote advanced manufacturing in Western Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio and West Virginia was announced Thursday by Obama administration officials in Youngstown, Ohio.

The federal government will contribute $30 million to the effort, with companies, universities and state governments providing the remaining $40 million, said Ralph Resnick, president of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining in Latrobe. The center will manage the project, known as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

It is the first of up to 15 manufacturing institutes that President Barack Obama called for in March as part of a plan to invest $1 billion to revitalize manufacturing. The announcement was made by officials from the U.S. Departments of Defense and Commerce, and Gene Sperling, a White House economic policy adviser.

The economic benefits the $30 million government investment is expected to produce could create political capital for Mr. Obama in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two large states that are critical to his re-election bid.

Mr. Resnick said the project's administrative offices will be in Youngstown, but that the research, product development and other efforts the $70 million makes possible will take place at universities and companies in the three-state region that participate in the project.

Local schools that will be involved in the effort include Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris University and the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory.

Latrobe tool maker Kennametal and ExOne, a high-tech manufacturer based in North Huntingdon, are among the companies participating in the venture.

"It's one of a number of things we're doing to bring the home field advantage back to the manufacturing heartland and prepare a generation of skilled technicians we desperately need," Kennametal chairman, president and CEO Carlos Cardoso said in a prepared statement.

ExOne president David J. Burns said the initiative should make the region "a hotbed for economic development associated with additive manufacturing."

Mr. Burns' company offers one form of technology that industry insiders refer to as additive manufacturing. ExOne takes three-dimensional images of parts and slices them into hundreds or thousands of layers the width of a human hair. The data is sent to a 3-D printer similar to an ink-jet printer. Instead of ink, the printer emits alternating layers of sand and powdered metal into a box, where a liquid is used to bind the layers together.

Once the printing is completed, the sand is blown away and the finished part is hardened in a high-temperature furnace. The process allows manufacturers to make finished parts without the time-consuming and costly bending, molding, punching, grinding and machining used in traditional manufacturing.

Mr. Resnick said the $40 million in private funding will be based largely on how much a university, company or other group is involved in the effort. Partners will contribute either cash or provide personnel, research facilities or make other in-kind contributions, he said.

Maria Kalevitch, dean of Robert Morris' school of engineering, mathematics and science, said the school's participation will be centered on developing programs for training manufacturing workers as well as research.

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