‘Impact Ohio’ Panel Makes the Case for AM Innovation Center

CANFIELD, Ohio – A panel of three specialists say that a regional innovation center dedicated to research and workforce development in additive manufacturing is key to capturing new opportunities for the Mahoning Valley.

“At some point, we’re going to have to plant flags,” said John Wilczynski, executive director of America Makes, the Youngstown-based national hub designed to facilitate adoption and research in additive manufacturing.  “We have to show we’re going to lead this for the state and for the country.”

Wylczynski joined Mark Lamoncha, president and CEO of Humtown Products, and Pamela Szmara, owner of Pamton 3D Commercial Printing and workforce instructor at Eastern Gateway Community College, for a panel discussion on the merits and challenges of additive manufacturing.

The forum was part of an all-day event held at Waypoint 4180 that also featured panel discussions on the military and repopulation efforts. A partnership between Impact Ohio, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.

The additive manufacturing panel, moderated by George Nelson, deputy managing editor of The Business Journal, focused on how 3D printing has become integrated into local manufacturing, the potential for developing this technology, and the prospects of establishing a regional innovation center devoted to research and training.

The state has allocated $125 million in the 2024-2025 budget to fund innovation centers modeled after similar districts in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.  Under this plan, smaller communities would develop proposals and compete for state dollars to establish centers to foster economic growth and diversification across Ohio.

“We’re still actively pursuing it,” Wilczynski said.  “We’re waiting to hear some details from the state as to how the process is going to operate.”

Wilczynski said his team and representatives of Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown’s administration have had “great conversations” with state officials about an additive manufacturing center in the Mahoning Valley.  “This is something we have demonstrated capability that we can do,” he said. “The conversations have been good. They need to mature, take hold and move forward with a plan.”

Humtown’s Lamoncha said one of the critical elements in developing such a hub would be a focus on commercialization of new additive technologies as industry changes.

“Earlier this year, we printed two semi-loads a week for high-and low-torque motor housings for EVs,” Lamoncha said. 

Humtown manufactures core sand molds that are used to form metal components, and uses both conventional and 3D printing processes. 

The conventional method first requires manufacturing a pattern of the component.  The sand is then compressed around the tooling, creating the mold. The mold is then shipped to the customer, where metal is poured into the core to create the part.

Additive manufacturing allows the sand core to be engineered digitally and 3D-printed directly, eliminating the need for expensive tooling, Lamoncha said. 

“The same sand molds we used to make and wait to make those tools, we’re able now to print them the same day and get them to the foundry and pour that metal,” he said. Using additive manufacturing sheds weeks off the production process, he noted.

“It gets them faster to market,” Lamoncha said.

Humtown, he added, recently purchased it’s 11th 3D printer.

Szmara said she integrated 3D printing into her dental business, Livewires Orthodontics, 15 years ago, and was among the first dental laboratories in the state to do so. While that business didn’t survive the economic downturn in the health care sector caused by COVID, her other business, Pamton 3D, did.

The company has since expanded its products and services and uses additive manufacturing to produce prototypes, scale models and short production runs for clients.

“Being a woman-owned business in additive manufacturing is a unique opportunity,” she said. 

Her business serves clients in the medical and dental, aeronautics, and electric vehicle markets. “Our goal is to make sure that we help our future companies get their products that they need.”

Szmara said that Eastern Gateway Community College, for example, is partnering with America Makes to help bring this technology to the forefront. At the same time, a large additive manufacturing laboratory is under construction at its downtown Youngstown campus.

“It will help individuals get into areas of additive manufacturing,” she said. “The level of interest is increasing daily. It is absolutely the workforce of the future.”

Wilczynski said it takes large investments, time and research to push this technology forward, which is why an additive innovation center in this region makes sense.

America Makes, for example, has helped facilitate projects with public-private partnerships that were forged more than 10 years ago, when the institute was established. 

Often, these projects can take five years or more.

“We’re finding that some of the work that we did in 2013, 2014 and 2015 is now starting to see its way through in continued development onto different systems,” he said, “whether it’s aircraft or automobiles.”

“It’s part of why building an innovation hub here is so important,” Wilczyinski continued. “It sets us up for decades to come.  It helps us focus on things now for what are going to be opportunities in the future.”

Pictured at top: Right to Left: George Nelson, The Business Journal; John Wilczynski, executive director of America Makes; Mark Lamoncha, president and CEO of Humtown Products; Pamela Szmara, owner of Pamton 3D Commercial Printing.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.