The results from a study to determine the feasibility for an additive manufacturing (AM) cluster, a geographic concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular industry, were announced.
The study, supported by the Fund for Our Economic Future (FFEF), an alliance of funders dedicated to advancing economic growth and equitable access to opportunity for the people of Northeast Ohio, was conducted by a project team of tech base economic development organizations – the Youngstown Business Incubator, Team NEO, MAGNET and America Makes, the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation” (NNMI) whose mission is to innovate and accelerate AM technology.
The objective of the study is to develop a roadmap and an execution plan for Northeast Ohio to evolve AM as a key growth opportunity for the region.
The study uncovered three key areas of strengths in Northeast Ohio – materials, product manufacture and design engineering.
Wohlers Associates, Inc., an independent consulting firm that provides technical, market and strategic advice on the new developments and trends in AM and 3DP, reported that the AM industry is estimated to be a $7.B industry in 2015. Most analysts predict a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 25 percent for the sector through 2020. With the resources in Northeast Ohio – home to more than 2000 companies in the metal fabrication or plastics and rubber processing sector – there is an opportunity to integrate the AM supply chain in Northeast Ohio to build a robust cluster. “When you couple those facts with the rich design/engineering resources we have in our universities such as the University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, and Youngstown State University, you realize that the region has an opportunity to not only be at the center of the supply chain for additive manufacturing, but to also produce the leaders of this design transformation,” said Tim Fahey, vice president of industry and innovation at Team NEO.
According to Ethan Karp, CEO of MAGNET, the region’s Manufacturing Extension Program, the strength of the industrial base in North East Ohio is one of the assets that can be built upon to build the cluster. “We have an opportunity to transform how manufacturing happens in northeast Ohio. By developing programs to help companies integrate AM into their existing manufacturing process, whether it’s through low volume tooling or hybrid manufacturing, we can position Ohio manufacturers to be at the forefront of advanced manufacturing.”
Rob Gorham, Ohio Operations Manager of America Makes, said the study – and the implementation of the plan that grew out of it – is critical to realizing the full potential of the NNMI. “Additive Manufacturing will change not only how we make things, but what we make. We see opportunities in aerospace, bioscience, and automotive that simply weren’t there before this technology began to unfold. This is a great time to be a manufacturer in northeast Ohio because of the opportunities that are going to open up for us.”
Barb Ewing, Chief Operating Officer for the Youngstown Business Incubator, who spearheaded the effort, discussed the future work of the project. “This document literally gives us a roadmap to make northeast Ohio the center of the additive manufacturing revolution. By working together and engaging with the other economic development organizations, colleges and universities, government and industry, we can create the atmosphere that we need to support the industry – and create sustainable jobs and wealth in our communities.”
To explore these opportunities, events are being conducted throughout Northeast Ohio for businesses in AM or interested in being involved in AM. The first was held today in Akron at the University of Akron Research Foundation. Other meetings are scheduled as follows:
- August 2 at America Makes in Youngstown
- August 9 at MAGNET in Cleveland
Additional information on the findings of the study and the work plan that is being implemented can be found atwww.NEOhioAMCluster.org or by following the group on social media.