A massive 3D printer fills the room: A 12-foot 25-foot steel plate on the floor is surrounded by 8-foot steel walls, and at the top a beam holds what looks like a giant ballpoint pen. The proprietor Michael Garvey has been the test-driving machine on large hunks of black plastic, which could eventually shape everything from a boat hull to an airplane wing.
Although 3D printing is currently only a side project for Garvey, he plans to scale his business fast. He has already fished out a plant where he can put several more of these giant room sizes printers, fed by molten plastic pellets, which he shows he can carry with trucks.
Unlike Silicon Valley, which has little experience with heavy production, this fake industrial hub has all the know-how needed to rediscover how America does things in the future.
"With our history in Youngstown, we have to learn how to adapt," Garvey said. "We have the sets of skills that we developed in an older industry, and we transfer these sets of skills to more of a digital environment from the 21
In recent years, the federal government has extinguished money in a lively collaboration between academics and industry focused on preserving US production for the next generation. And many existing companies use other new technologies to become leaner and more productive. But even if they succeed, the thousands of solid middle-class jobs that local residents can get from GM come with only a high school diploma, probably not back.
Instead, the new industry will require a smaller number of highly educated engineers, programmers and machine operators – what types of skills are currently lacking, not just in the United States, but around the world.
The gigantic printer project will eventually run with robots talking to each other with little human involvement, known during the production of jargon as "Industry 4.0." It is part of a progression that started with water and steam power, advanced with electricity, leap forward with data plate, and now entails devices communicating with each other and learning alone through artificial intelligence.
It can utilize fewer people per widget produced, but the way Garvey sees it, has no choice.
"We are a society at risk," he said. "And if we don't get involved in Industry 4.0 in a significant way, we're pretty much sealed our destiny."
Silicon Valley of 3D Printing
Mahoning Valley transformation began seriously in 2012, when the number of production workers in the area began to rise from an all-time low, when the Obama administration put one of their Five National Manufacturing Institutes in Youngstown.
Take the production of all the devices needed to make things out of metal, such as gauges, clamps, and drill bits. Traditionally, tools and other parts are molded with molds made of sand, and produce tough steel shapes that need to be ground further. They take several steps and sometimes weeks to make, can break easily and fail to handle delicate details.
Therefore, there is some start-up on the Youngstown Business Incubator that specializes in 3D printing of the molds for the tools that can take the tenth of the time – and works with major manufacturers to incorporate the process into their production lines.
] In addition to producing precision parts and mold for heavy production, Juggerbot sells its own proprietary 3D printer, experimenting with medical devices and surgical implants, like a prosthetic knee connector or a perfectly fitted shoe insert that can be printed to order.
Other activities on the incubator include producing spare parts for the US Air Force's older aircraft that it cannot get anywhere else, and soon 3D glasses will fit the people's characteristics based on face scanning.
The point of all these attempts is to create a flexible production base that can adapt to customer needs quickly, rather than the rigid assembly line at the now-closed GM factory in Lordstown. That the facility is configured to only produce a model of car and to switch to something else would require millions of investments, plus months of free time.
Inclusion of additive production is also a way for smaller Youngstown companies to remain resilient and make products at a lower price so that when downturns come or a large client moves away, they can swing to other markets. Factories that a large aluminum citizen producer has come in contact with Youngstown State to see if there are ways they can incorporate 3D printing.
"They know their world is going to change," said Jim Tressel, president of Youngstown State. "Don't know how. But they know, as Thomas Edison said," there's a better way to find it. ""
If Youngstown can turn into a 3D printing, it will still be smaller scale and more distributed, rather than relying on huge tent-based companies this year. It will not be so visible to the outside world, but it will be less vulnerable to the whims of a single institution.