Consortium Envisions ‘Tech Belt’ in PA, OH and WV

Pennsylvania is part of the pilot program for a proposed national network of manufacturing institutes.  The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMMII) is a public-private partnership that spans PA, Ohio and West Virginia.  The Department of Defense is putting up $30-million dollars to help fund the institute; another $40-million dollars is coming from a broad base of consortium members.

Additive manufacturing is a high-tech process that produces items directly from a 3D digital model.  “Rather than the traditional way of taking a block of material and subtracting material away where you don’t want it, additive manufacturing is a layered process that puts the material where you do want it,” says acting NAMMII director Ralph Resnick.

Eight Pennsylvania universities and community colleges are a part of the consortium, including Penn State.  “The concept is to try to utilize universities and industry together to try to advance technical issues and barriers that are impeding manufacturing from being competitive in this marketplace,” says Wayne Figurelle, director of industrial innovation programs for the College of Engineering at Penn State.

Resnick and Figurelle tell Radio PA that the Department of Defense is especially interested in additive manufacturing because it’s cost-effective, mobile, and allows for production in limited quantities.

Resnick expects big things if they can harness the energy of the 40-companies, 9-research universities, 5-community colleges and 11-nonprofits who are participating in the pilot project.  “We not only hope to create jobs, but we hope to create region that is similar to the Silicon Valley for electronics or the Research Triangle in North Carolina.”

NAMMII is the first of what President Barack Obama has proposed as a billion dollar network of 15-manufacturing institutes.  Expansion of the program would require congressional approval.