Manufacturing

YSU, YBI Partnership Brings A.I. to 3-D Printing

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new artificial intelligence application that aims to ease adoption of 3-D printing technology represents the “perfect intersection” of the Youngstown Business Incubator’s two main areas of expertise, its CEO says.

Barb Ewing joined representatives of Youngstown State University and the YSU Research Foundation this morning to announce a partnership agreement with PrintSYSt.

Through the agreement, software is embedded on YBI’s website that helps potential customers determine whether a 3-D printer can produce the desired item. If possible, the product will be printed in YSU’s Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing.

The meeting with PrintSYSt’s CEO and founder Itamar Yona resulted from Ewing searching through the LinkedIn contacts of her predecessor, Jim Cossler.

She and Brett Conner, director of YSU’s additive manufacturing center, met with Yona with “not a clear understanding of what might come out of it,” she said.

They came to learn that Yona had experienced many of the same issues that local operators of 3-D printers encounter, among them that businesses who want items printed often find that it’s too expensive or just isn’t feasible for their particular product.

“If you’ve ever spent five minutes with Jim Cossler, he will tell you that the key to having a successful company is having a solution to a real problem rather than a solution in search of a problem,” Ewing said. “Itamar has solved a true problem.”

“3-D printing is diverse, long and complex, and those challenges result in low productivity, high frustration by users and low adoption rates,” Yona added via video call.

PrintSYSt released its PrintSYSt Beta 0.1 version in June and is collaborating with academic and commercial 3-D printing service providers in Europe, Asia, Australia and, with the YSU partnership, now in the United States.

PrintSYSt’s software, which is embedded on the YBI site, uses a chatbot to guide potential customers through the process of determining whether the printer it is connected to can produce the requested item. It asks where the item is going to be placed, whether it would require post-processing and how many copies are needed, among other questions, Yona said.

“At its most fundamental level, it allows a potential customer who wants to get something printed to walk through a series of questions to see if the product they want printed can be printed, roughly in what materials, what dimensions, what the cost will be,” Ewing said. “It saves them time. It allows them to figure out on their own whether that’s something that’s doable and if it is what they need in order to do it.”

It also saves the owner of the 3-D printer the time and effort of spending hours with potential customers.

“As the software works with more and more customers, it gets smarter,” she added. It begins to understand different design parameters and helps the customer to make a better product based on what was learned previously.

“This is the perfect intersection between software and additive manufacturing, which are our two core competencies,” she said.

The agreement is the most recent dividend to result from the local delegation’s trip to Israel a year ago, YSU President Jim Tressel said. Last year, YSU entered into an agreement with Western Galilee College and YBI partnered with The Junction, a business accelerator there. In March, a group of criminal justice students and nursing majors will travel to Israel, where they will visit prisons and medical centers.

Scott Deutsch, communications manager for America Makes, the national additive manufacturing research institute based in Youngstown, hailed the addition of the PrintSYSt software to YBI, one of America Makes’ affiliates.

“Integrating this exciting software with additive manufacturing just accelerates the adoption of this technology to the end users and to the rest of the supply chain,” he said.

Anyone will be able to use the software and the items will be printed at YSU, Ewing said, with completed projects shipped to customers.

“Obviously we want students to take advantage of it. It’s a YSU asset and our first thought is to help get them into the game and understand what can be printed at what cost and how to go through that process,” she said.

“Beyond that, this is something that we hope will build our ecosystem,” she continued. “We want companies that are just thinking about how they can use additive to get in here, start to explore and see what can be done.”

Pictured: YBI CEO Barb Ewing, left, and YSU President Jim Tressel, right, are joined via video call by PrintSYSt’s Eitan Yona, Eldar Elaev and Itamar Yona.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.