The private companies and engineering students are working every day to develop new, efficient ways to make products go together like peanut butter and jelly, said center director Ed Morris on Friday morning.
The public-private educational partnership in Youngstown's National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, or NAMII, is working out so well, in fact, that U.S Sen. Sherrod Brown is calling for a national network of 15 to 18 of the manufacturing innovation centers, using Youngstown as the model.
''What's happening in the Mahoning Valley is all leaning toward job creation,'' the Democrat said, noting that the work that comes out of centers like NAMII should help spawn entrepreneurial activity.
''There's something happening in the Valley, and this is really the geographic and the intellectual center of it. We know how important it is that when we do innovation in this county that we also do the manufacturing here,'' Brown said.
He spoke after touring the center Friday morning, learning about ways that students and private engineers are creating new, efficient methods of manufacturing that do not involve cutting from molds or other more traditional methods of manufacturing that can generate much waste.
Additive manufacturing builds materials layer by layer with no waste and is capable of creating complex and highly specialized shapes that can be fitted to a specific machine or tool.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown discusses a product Friday that was made with a technology known as additive manufacturing at the National Additive Manufacturing Institute in downtown Youngstown. Photo by Brenda Linert
"Additive manufacturing combines innovative design and manufacturing capabilities to create new products and the jobs that follow as a strategic boost to the U.S. economy," Morris said. ''Cutting paper dolls is subtractive manufacturing, but it can be a very expensive way to do it,'' he said, in a simplistic explanation of the process. ''With additive manufacturing you have very little waste. It's a really good economic equation with the intent of eliminating waste."
Joining the group on Friday was Youngstown State University mechanical engineering student Matt Azam, who plans to work with NAMII in his final 10 weeks before his anticipated graduation.
Engineering internships, Azam said, will help him graduate with more than a year and a half of on-the-job experience. The Cardinal Mooney graduate said he already has job offers on the table.
Brown had been involved in landing the pilot project in Ohio and helping to procure $30 million in federal funding for the NAMII project.
Recently he worked to circulate draft legislation to industry stakeholders to create a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation to create more advanced manufacturing hubs like Youngstown's NAMII.
In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama touted the Youngstown project as a success and urged Congress to create a network of 15 additional hubs of manufacturing innovation.
Brown said he would like to continue the partnership among industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies and government to accelerate manufacturing innovation.
"Northeast Ohio's techbelt is a shining example of American ingenuity and a testament to Ohio's ability to make things," said Brown. "With NAMII leading the way, we can create a national network for manufacturing innovation that will create thousands of high-paying jobs and establish the infrastructure to attract new investment in high-tech manufacturing."