Gardner Praises Mahoning Valley’s ‘Rich Culture of Additive Manufacturing’

NILES, Ohio – Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity rethink the way existing products that have been made for decades can be made, Slade Gardner said Wednesday morning.

Gardner, president and founder of Big Metal Additive LLC in Denver, was the keynote speaker at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s 2021 Annual Meeting, which was held at the Eastwood Event Center.

“Additive manufacturing lets us reimagine the fundamental architecture,” he said.

He began his career at Lockheed Martin Corp., working in conventional composite manufacturing, which interested him because it involved a combination of mathematics, material science and manufacturing processes, he said. He then discovered additive manufacturing, which brought in design and computation, and he added automation, igniting a “new passion” for him.

“When you think about an automobile and you think about where everything is placed, it’s done that way through convention. We call it engineering heuristics. It’s the way we’ve done things and it sets the pace for the way that we continue to do things,” he told those in attendance.

“Additive manufacturing lets you start with a clean sheet and reconsider where does everything go, and what happens if I start moving things in places they haven’t been” he continued. “Well, the investment required to produce a prototype with conventional manufacturing is out of reach, but with additive manufacturing you produce your prototype – additive doesn’t care what your geometry is. It produces whatever you design. And so it allows reimagination, reinvention of conventional products.”

One of the projects Big Metal Additive is looking at is the new urban mobility concept now being explored: air taxis, he said. “It’s exciting from a design and configuration perspective and it’s going to be exciting from a manufacturing perspective,” he said.

Gardner praised the Mahoning Valley’s “rich culture of additive manufacturing,” one of the keys to that being America Makes, which he called “the national and even global focal point for technologists” in the industry.

Locally, he also works with Strangpresse LLC, Boardman, which provides large-scale extruders for large-format polymer additive manufacturing, and Center Street Technologies, Youngstown, which is “really bringing to life a larger scale and a brand-new philosophy on how you do polymer composite additive manufacturing,”

Additive manufacturing was one of two sustainable competitive advantages the Mahoning Valley has that were cited during the breakfast meeting.

Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber

“We are at the forefront of electric autonomous connected mobility. We are at the forefront of additive manufacturing,” said Guy Coviello, the regional chamber’s new president and CEO. “Right here in the Valley, we are about to revolutionize the world’s economy.”

The chamber recognized one of the companies behind the establishment of the EV industry’s footprint, General Motors, by presenting it with its Spirit of the Valley Award.

Ultium Cells, which GM formed with South Korea’s LG Chem, is building a $2.3 billion plant in Lordstown to manufacture batteries for the EV market. GM also sold its former Lordstown manufacturing plant to EV startup Lordstown Motors.

In addition, GM is providing a $12 million grant for education, training and infrastructure improvements locally as part of its settlement with the state of Ohio after the state determined GM did not fulfill the terms of incentive agreements it entered into in 2009 when it closed the Lordstown plant in 2019.

More than 1,000 Valley residents will be employed at the Ultium Cells plant when it begins production sometime in 2022, Mark Reuss, GM president, said in a video message accepting the award.

“Between that factory and our support for Lordstown Motors, we’re happy to be part of the conversion of the region to Voltage Valley,” he said.

The chamber also recognized Eastern Gateway Community College, Kent State University at Trumbull and Youngstown State University with the Spirit of the Chamber Award. The three institutions collaborated with the chamber to establish an in-house internship program, with dedicated space at the chamber’s offices in downtown Youngstown.

The Kent Trumbull campus’s mission locally has been to serve the community’s needs, primary its workforce and economic development needs, by producing an educated workforce, said Dr. Daniel Palmer, interim dean and chief administrative officer at the campus.

“It’s important that the chamber recognize that one of the great assets of the Valley is that we have three excellent higher education institutions,” providing the opportunity to showcase those resources at the chamber offices, he said. “That visibility itself is important,” as well as the opportunity for the interns to make connections to the business community, he added.

Pictured at top: Big Metal Additive President Slade Gardner gives a speech at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber’s annual breakfast.

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