America Makes Partners Tout Benefits During Pritzker’s Visit
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Global corporations and smaller companies closer to home touted the benefits they are reaping from America Makes following a round table at the additive manufacturing center Thursday with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
Partners who represent a cross-section of America Makes’ 146 members participated in the discussion, which as closed to the press.
America Makes was one of three stops on Pritzker’s tour of National Network for Manufacturing Innovation centers. The Obama Administration launched the Youngstown center in 2012 as the pilot project for the network of manufacturing hubs in which government, private industry, academia and nongovernmental organizations collaborate to improve and develop commercial uses of new technology,
The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation is “a critical component” of the Obama administration’s competitiveness agenda, Pritzker said at a news conference following the round table and a tour of the institute. America Makes “is not only a nice-to-have, it is a must-have,” she remarked.
Pritzker said she heard from America Makes members about “the strength of this kind of public-private partnership,” which she said was “good for the full spectrum of the private sector.”
Among the companies that participated in the round table was Humtown Products in Columbiana. America Makes “gives a small company like Humtown the ability to come and meet the people that are key in these large organizations,” Brandon Lamoncha, sales manager/solutions provider for the company, said afterward.
“It gives us an ecosystem that we can talk to people about our talents and our expertise, whether it be in engineering or metal casting, and it plugs us directly into the business units that need the technology,” Lamoncha continued. “America Makes is basically the playground where we come and we can all talk and learn together.”
Humtown, a small pattern shop, as Lamoncha described his company, is integrating additive manufacturing technology into the supply chain by using 3-D printing binder jet technology, he said.
“We’re actually printing the mold so we don’t need tooling any longer. We’re eliminating that step so we’re able to get parts to our customers faster than they’ve ever seen before,” he said. Using the technology, Humtown is doing 10 to 30 projects each month, he reported.
General Electric has engaged “very strongly” with America Makes, mainly through its aviation division in Cincinnati, said Edward Henderick, a member of GE’s Advanced Manufacturing Initiatives Group.
“This is a strategic technology for us. We’re working on developing the ecosystem around additive manufacturing,” he said. That includes working with other original equipment manufacturers, machine suppliers, materials companies and universities such as Youngstown State University, as well as government laboratories and other public-private partnerships.
Work is underway on GE’s new $32 million Center for Additive Technology Advancement west of Pittsburgh, “very much in the Youngstown region” and part of the TechBelt corridor, Henderick said.
“America Makes is sort of the capital of additive manufacturing inside the TechBelt and so it’s very important,” he remarked.
Siemens Corp. is involved with America Makes as well as similar organizations, said James Menego, vice president of Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc., a unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division.
Siemens Corp., which two years ago donated $440 million of its PLM software to YSU, also made a separate gift to America Makes, Menego said. “The way our agreement is structured here at America Makes is they really have an open-ended agreement that if they call and need more software from us, all we have to do is push the button and get it for them. So that increases our investment,” he said.
As part of its partnership, Siemens participates in project calls “and those project calls are where the rubber meets the road,” Menego said. Participation in the project calls, which requires additional investment on Siemens’ part, provides the company access to the technology, which will improve its products and services, he added.
Projects at America Makes “are beginning to yield results,” said Michael Garvey, president of M-7 Technologies Inc. in Youngstown. From discussions he had with others involved with the round table, America Makes is “clearly out in front of everybody else,” he reported.
Involvement with America Makes provides M-7 “the opportunity to marry the technology that we’ve developed internally to some of the technology that has been funded for development at America Makes to create a strategic advantage in the marketplace,” Garvey said. “We’re working on a project like that right now.”
Through America Makes, Garvey said he has access to “nationally recognized experts” in the field of additive manufacturing. “It’s a point of entry for M-7 to join a community that has a lot of leading research universities and prime contractors for the Department of Defense” and allows him to learn “the players and the protocols,” he added.
“We’re realistic that GE or Lockheed Martin isn’t necessarily going to put a huge presence here” but what is taking place at America Makes is driving success at companies’ existing plants, and is helping local companies involved with the center grow as well, said Jay Williams, assistant commerce secretary for economic development.
“That’s where we’ve seen the majority of our success in the Mahoning Valley anyways,” said the former Youngstown mayor, who accompanied Pritzker on the tour. “We all swing for the fences and we want that big, huge project but there are only going to be so many V&Ms.”
The real drivers of economic growth are existing small and medium-sized companies that continue to expand, he said. “You get a whole lot more bang for your buck there,” Williams observed.
During the tour, Williams was particularly impressed with work being done as part of a competition to develop improved protective headgear for professional football and potentially other sports and applications.
“To think that that that pivotal point could very well be driven by what’s going on here in Youngstown, Ohio is significant,” he remarked.
Williams also was struck by the comments of Steve Betza, director of advanced manufacturing with Lockheed Martin Corp., who he said characterized America Makes as “one of the most impressive public-private partnerships” he has seen in 32 years in the industry. “That speaks volumes,” the former mayor said.
“The technology that’s spinning out of here and the partnerships that are happening here are creating a magnet for companies around the country and the world to partner with our companies here,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, who also accompanied Pritzker on her tour.
Companies want to invest where new technology is developing and where the partnerships are happening, such as GE’s decision to invest in its additive manufacturing center, Ryan continued. “While that’s not in Youngstown, it’s pretty darn close, and we’re in the mix now in a way that we haven’t been for decades.”
A proposed business park targeted to additive manufacturing is still being discussed, M-7’s Garvey said. A site has been identified and is being evaluated.
“There’s interest [in the park] but there’s also obstacles,” he cautioned. “So we have to clearly identify the obstacles and see if we can alleviate them.”
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.