america makes

America Makes Opens Its Doors to Community

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — America Makes opened its doors to the community to make additive manufacturing a little easier to understand in celebration of a decade in operation.

America Makes kicked off its annual Members Meeting and Exchange with Community Day on Tuesday, an open house event for guests and visitors to explore the newly renovated facility.

The advanced manufacturing hub invited neighboring companies to also open their doors for the day, including the Youngstown Business Incubator; JuggerBot 3D; Fitz Frames; Tailored Alloys; the Excellence Training Center; Ursa Major and P&L Heat Treating.

“We’re part of this community here in the Mahoning Valley and it’s important that we open these doors to the sort of people that don’t work with us usually, and they can come in here and see what this is all about,” operations director Alexander Steeb says. “We’re celebrating Community Day today as part of a larger ecosystem here in Youngstown.”

In 2021, America Makes underwent a renovation of its facility to create a “Front Door to Additive” – a space to connect visitors to additive manufacturing.

The renovation broke the space into five zones, says Steeb, and the interactive space takes guests through the evolving industries and industrial eras of the Mahoning Valley — from the steel belt to the rust belt to the tech belt. Each zone breaks additive manufacturing down to a relatable level, Steeb says.

The first zone dives into the manufacturing history of the Mahoning Valley.

He says some people suspect that the animatronics behind “baby Yoda,” formally named Grogu, from Disney+’s TV show “The Mandalorian,” are 3D printed. While that might not be completely accurate, Steeb says it’s a valid assumption.

“That’s absolutely valid as a way for people to wrap their head around the technology and how to use it — you know, you can now print rocket nozzles out of copper,” he says. “Many of those things are doable today, but they’re not very widely seen. We just want to basically lower the barriers of entry for folks to get a grip on the technology.”

Zones break additive manufacturing down into simpler concepts.

Other examples in the exhibit include pet toys, air ducts, medical instruments like forceps and retractors, and designs for face masks and swabs that were created out of the Advanced Manufacturing Crisis Response during the pandemic.

Steeb adds that the exhibit gives visitors a look into the Valley’s history of manufacturing. He says it’s important for the community to understand its past for it to continue to evolve.

The creation of the additive manufacturing hub in 2012 sparked a new wave of revolutionized manufacturing in the city, putting in back on the map as an industry leader. Steeb says America Makes was put into Youngstown in recognition of the region’s existing manufacturing competence.

“It leveraged the competence that was still in place here, but it also provided a spark to new, advanced manufacturing technology and to local businesses,” he says. “We have many examples of local partners that have latched on to the technology and have taken advantage of us being here with YBI and YSU. And we’ve created a manufacturing powerhouse for the region and the nation.”

America Makes is the nation’s leading public-private partnership for additive manufacturing technology and education. America Makes members from industry, academia, government, workforce and economic development organizations, work together to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing.

The institute’s decade-long presence in the Valley has brought several other similar companies to the region. “We’re very proud to be the inaugural manufacturing innovation institute and to help pioneer the way in several ways, and so we’re very excited to reach this milestone,” technology director Brandon Ribic says.

Ribic says the institute is “staying in the moment,” but it wants to focus on how it can better serve and educate its community over the next ten years. “We’re going to honestly ask ourselves, in terms of evolution and maturation, of what more can we be doing and how can we better address the needs of the supply chain and the region and the various communities,” he says.

Pictured at top: Community and industry members tour the newly renovated space at America Makes during Community Day.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.