Entering a Second Machine Age: Reinventing American Manufacturing

Canary. Photo by 4028mdk09.

[CNN Business] – After 52 years, GM is now gone in Lordstown, Ohio.

Unlike Silicon Valley, which has scant experience with heavy manufacturing, this faded industrial hub has all the know-how necessary to reinvent how America makes things in the future.

“With our history in Youngstown, we’ve got to learn how to adapt,” Garvey said. “We have the skill sets that we developed in a legacy industry, and we’re transitioning those skill sets to more of a 21st century digital environment.”

History is one thing, but it’s also Youngstown, Ohio’s present, with the closure this week of the Mahoning Valley’s last major manufacturer: General Motors’ Lordstown Chevy Cruze assembly plant, which employed 4,500 people as recently as 2017, plus thousands of others at local suppliers that will also shut down as a result.

Now, in what some call the Second Machine Age, comes 3-D printing and robots.

On the banks of the Mahoning River in Northeast Ohio, not far from where the first steel mill in the area once operated, sits a warehouse where the future of manufacturing is slowly taking shape.

A massive 3D printer fills the space: A 12-foot by 25-foot steel plate on the floor is surrounded by 8-foot steel walls, and on top, a beam holds what looks like a giant ballpoint pen. Proprietor Michael Garvey has been test-running the machine on large hunks of black plastic, which could eventually take the shape of anything from a boat hull to an airplane wing.

It’s a far cry from the noisy, belching metal industries that once employed tens of thousands of people here — but local leaders are trying to make 3D printing technology as important to their economy as the Bessemer steel process was decades ago.

Although 3D printing is currently just a side project for Garvey, he plans to scale the business rapidly. He’s already staked out a facility where he can put several more of these gigantic, room-sized printers, fed by melted-down plastic pellets, which he figures he can bring in by railcar loads.

While smaller businesses that are literally trail-blazing in some technologies may not get the spotlight that a mega-manufacturer like GM gets, they will play a vital role in fueling our future economy.

CNN Business took a look at 3-D manufacturing, highlighting Patrick Garvey’s investment and his test-running of a massive printer that sits inside a warehouse in Youngstown.

YSU President Jim Tressel talks about the critical role the university is playing in recruiting talent and providing resources for students and businesses to expand and develop new technologies.

The point of all those endeavors, the article states, is to “create a flexible manufacturing base that can adapt to customers’ need quickly, rather than a rigid assembly line at the now-shuttered GM plant in Lordstown.”

Youngstown, OH – WKBN 27

How 3D printing is spurring revolutionary advances in manufacturing and design

Published 21 Mar 2018

M7 Technologies – American Manufacturing.

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