Garvey Advances Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On the outside, the building at 1062 Ohio Works Drive appears as unassuming and typical as any other industrial plant in the region.

On the inside, however, a manufacturing revolution is underway.

Center Street Technologies Inc. is nearing completion of what is today the largest single 3D printer in the world, said Mike Garvey, president. “We conceived and designed this machine ourselves.”

Garvey, also president of M7 Technologies in Youngstown, said the printer is capable of handling builds of up to 60,000 pounds, pushing the envelope of additive manufacturing technology even further.

“It is, hands down, the most technologically sophisticated 3D printer in the world,” Garvey said, as he stands inside the doors of what resembles a well-lit garage of the future that’s big enough to house a Ford F-150 pickup with plenty of room to spare. “And it’s here, in Youngstown.”

Garvey said it took roughly two years of research, design and execution to reach this stage. “It all starts with the software,” he said.

Center Street’s printer uses Siemens product life-cycle management, or PLM, software to read digital designs provided by a client. Basically, the concept is the same as other 3D printers – once the digital design is loaded, it guides a nozzle that deposits material in a preprogrammed sequence that builds a component from the bottom up.

Unlike other printers, this one uses large-scale 3D print technology developed in the region by another Youngstown company, Strangpresse. The company has devised a large extrusion system that melts plastic pellets and then deposits the material onto a large “build plate” that takes up much of the printer floor.

The size of the printer is what immediately stands out, evidenced by the F-150 parked on the large build plate. The entire space measures 12 feet wide, 24 feet in length and eight feet high, while the extrusion nozzle alone is five feet long.

“We’re using a Strangpresse extrusion nozzle that is able to dispense 150 pounds of material per hour,” Garvey said. “All of the material is a thermoplastic or thermoplastic and cut carbon fiber,” he said. The nozzle is governed by a larger drive apparatus that is located on top of the printer and allows it to navigate across the entire build plate, depositing the material as directed.”

At this rate, it would take roughly 70 hours to print a 10,000-pound part, Garvey said. “This printer will run 24/7,” he noted.

Moreover, the equipment unlocks entirely new product markets for large-scale additive manufacturing in aerospace, transportation, defense, marine and the architectural industries, Garvey said. “We’ve run some validation builds,” he said, noting that the system should be fully functional in a matter of months. “We have some commitments to customers for the first quarter of next year.”

None of this would have been possible were it not for America Makes, the first of the Obama Administration’s network of advanced manufacturing hubs, Garvey said. America Makes, created in 2012 and based in Youngstown, helps foster partnerships between private industry, the public sector and academia to accelerate research and adoption of additive manufacturing technology.

“When America Makes was first announced, we weren’t doing anything in additive,” Garvey recalled. At that time his company, M7 Technologies, was making its mark using advanced measurement technology it applied to conventional machining processes.

“We took the first four years to learn about the technology and wanted to get into it when the time was right,” he said.

Through America Makes, Garvey successfully forged connections with companies such as Strangpresse and its CEO, Chuck George, not to mention major manufacturers in the defense industry.

Three years ago, Garvey purchased the building at 1062 Ohio Works, the former Superior Chemicals building. Initially, he intended to use the space to house some advanced manufacturing operations related to M7 and additional warehousing.

The momentum advancing additive manufacturing convinced Garvey to create Center Street Technologies and use the building for its new 3D printing operations. “We decided to make space for it here,” he said.

Rob Gorham, executive director at America Makes, said that additive manufacturing applications are beginning to make the transition in some markets to higher volume production and capabilities to print larger, more complex parts in a single build cycle.

“There are lots of ways to scale the process,” Gorham told The Business Journal Tuesday at America Makes’ Members and Meeting Exchange. “You can scale the process by putting a lot of machines in a building, or you can scale the process like what we see Mike doing and building a bigger machine,” he said.

It’s difficult to assess just how long it will take until large-scale print technology becomes a significant part of America’s manufacturing culture, Gorham said. Yet, there is evidence that the technology is emerging rapidly.

“Significant progress is being made,” he said. “We’re seeing the scale happen in terms of production efficiency and volume.”

For Garvey, the future of manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley rests with this sort of technology, and the work he and others are doing now establishes a foundation for further development across all industries.

Still, the next challenge is to educate and train a workforce that can develop the necessary skills that are adaptable to this technology, he said.

“We’ve got to identify training modules,” Garvey said, noting he’s working with America Makes, the National Coalition for Advanced Technology, and the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers’ Coalition to develop a comprehensive best-practices strategy for workforce development.

“We want to create a best-in-class workforce,” Garvey said. “People and companies locate to regions because of human capital. That’s really the end-game for us now.”

Ultimately, the collective force of additive and other advanced manufacturing methods stands to reshape the very culture of industry in the Mahoning Valley – not unlike what occurred during the Industrial Revolution during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“It’s a changed world, and this is a good way to pay it forward,” Garvey said. “We have the opportunity to build a new digital technology-driven industrial base in the Mahoning Valley.”

Pictured: Mike Garvey, president of Center Street Technologies Inc., stands in front of a 3D printer capable of handing builds up to 60,000 pounds.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.