A little over a year ago, 3D printing was a funky new technology that you might find at modestly sized booths in the basement level of the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES. Tonight, President Obama mentioned it in the same breath as Apple and Intel during his State of the Union address, while talking about ways to create new jobs and manufacturing in the United States. Here's the passage from the transcript:
After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There's no reason this can't happen in other towns.
The notion that Youngstown, Ohio, is the epicenter of the 3D-printing revolution probably came as news to many people who have never heard of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute that the president referenced. Additive manufacturing is the industry term for 3D printing, and NAMII, as it's known, has been collecting some big checks during the past year to become a hub for pushing 3D printing beyond a means for creating innumerable themed chess sets.
The Department of Defense provided $30 million to help get NAMII going, which will be matched by a consortium of big name corporations, universities and non-profits including Boeing, IBM, and Carnegie Mellon University, just to name a few. NASA (already a big fan of 3D printing), the National Science Foundation and other big time funders are also expected to kick in a few million shekels.
NAMII was only officially founded in August of 2012, and the first deadline for project proposals that the institute will pursue with partner organizations closed at the end of January. It expects to announce its first round of projects next month.
The institute did provide a preview of the sorts of projects it may be interested in pursuing. At an event sponsored by NAMII, a Chicago company named Sciaky showcased its technology for creating parts for some pretty heavy-duty real world uses. Watch the video below to see how it creates large titanium parts for use in jet fighters: