Miami University President Gregory Crawford hosted a regional advanced and additive manufacturing talent summit this spring at Miami’s Voice of America conference center near Cincinnati. Student researchers and advisors from Miami University, the University of Cincinnati, and Cincinnati State University showcased their latest work in the fields of 3D printing, biomedical simulation, aerospace and advanced manufacturing. Joined by industry partners in the region, the three universities took the opportunity to thank the Department of Higher Education for its innovative RAPIDS (Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills) grants, which have allowed the universities to partner in purchasing state-of-the-art equipment that students use in their research. To date, ODHE has awarded more than $8 million in regional RAPIDS grants with more than $1 million invested in the southwest region of the state.
Additive manufacturing is using advanced scientific techniques to improve the way companies produce products, leading the way toward a fast and efficient future for manufacturing everything from jet engine parts to human replacement parts.
While the RAPIDS grants bring industry partners together with university research and teaching to have an immediate impact on workforce training needs specific to the region, a longer-term benefit is in place, as well. Miami University and its regional campuses work with Cincinnati State and Sinclair Community College to introduce area high school students to the concepts college students are learning. Last year, 3,000 high schools students attended workshops involving 3D printing and robotics.
By definition, additive manufacturing creates products by building layers rather than the older subtractive manufacturing techniques of cutting materials into shape. But the additive aspect most impressive when it comes to how Ohio’s two-year and four-year campuses have partnered with each other and with industry is the added investments made through the partnerships.
“We’re investing more than $2 million in 3D printers for primary and secondary schools so younger students can experience the technology,” said Chris Panczyk, a General Electric engineer who works closely with the researchers at UC. “We want younger students to get familiar with the tools of the future, and what we’re seeing is encouraging as younger students quickly see the fun in hands-on learning.”
Panczyk works for a start-up company within GE called GE Additive. “Additive (manufacturing) changes the game in terms of flexibility, creativity, and cost, and it played an important role in the development of a new fuel nozzle for its 757 jet aircraft that was much more durable and lighter, dramatically reducing the number of parts (from 855 to 12),” he said.
While additive manufacturing is becoming commonplace in aerospace and other high-tech industries, its prevalence in health care and hospital environments is also rising. Researchers at Miami University have been using 3D printers to develop training tools to help health care workers and home care workers recognize the early signs of bed sores, which plague patients in long-term care environments. Pressure sores affect more than three million adults each year and increase health care costs by as much as $11 billion. Miami University is developing tools to help health care workers and family members recognize and treat the pressure sores early and prevent more extensive skin damage.
Meanwhile, other partner companies see a convergence of biology and robotics as the next major step in biomedical research and development.
James Hoying, PhD, chief scientist for Advanced Solutions Life Sciences, LLC, sees a day when robotic arms modeled on manufacturing processes will be used in the biofabrication of replacement tissue for human beings. Stay tuned.