Youngstown: Building the Perfect Machine

A new partnership between Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator will help Ohio manufacturers save time and money
Monday, July 21, 2014

The process of efficiently designing, manufacturing, and testing individual machinery components can be time-consuming and expensive, especially as the complexity and the need for multiple iterations increase.

A longstanding and successful partnership between Youngstown State University (YSU) and the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) has obtained funding through the Ohio Development Services Agency’s (ODSA) Edison Advanced Manufacturing Program to develop an innovative approach called precision hybrid manufacturing to rapidly produce specialized machinery components for manufacturing companies.

Manufacturing 101

One of the traditional methods of fabricating machinery components is called subtractive manufacturing – cutting, grinding, and drilling metal or other raw materials into the required shape. In contrast, additive manufacturing (sometimes called 3D Printing or Rapid Prototyping) is a process of selectively adding materials layer-by-layer to build a component. 

The YSU-YBI precision hybrid manufacturing process combines both additive and subtractive methods. First, an additive process turns metal into what is referred to as a “near net shape,” a close approximation of the final part, which is then finished using traditional machining or other subtractive methods to reach the exact specification. Hybrid manufacturing is especially useful when a company requires a small number of highly customized parts – particularly when multiple designs need to be quickly created and evaluated for performance.

“Any industry that uses low-volume metal parts that are unique or require some type of customization should at least evaluate this technology,” said YBI Chief Operating Officer Barb Ewing. “In general, aerospace, automotive, and tool and die manufacturers can greatly benefit from this partnership.”

This new project is housed at the YSU Center for Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing, which evaluates advanced manufacturing techniques for the benefit of companies in the Mahoning Valley and across Ohio. “Adoption of this hybrid approach will reduce the lead time and significant investment in tooling that are required, particularly for low-volume production,” said Guha Manogharan, assistant professor in the department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, who is YSU’s technical lead on this project. 

YSU students stand to gain, as well, as several aspects of the project, such as design for additive manufacturing, sustainability, and the economics of hybrid processes, will be taught through YSU workshops and manufacturing courses. 

“This project allows us to incorporate advanced design and manufacturing practices into our curriculum, which immediately prepares our students with valuable skills for their careers,” said Manogharan, who plans to include elements of this project in the manufacturing practices courses he teaches. 


A History of Collaboration

The new YBI/YSU partnership is just the latest in a string of collaborative projects. Over the last 10 years, YSU faculty and students have helped numerous YBI companies incubate business ideas. According to Ewing, YSU provides “technical support and an understanding of a wide array of technologies,” while YBI brings “an understanding of the nuances of taking new products to market.” 

 “The inclusion of students provides a trained workforce for the future growth of industrial participants,” said Martin Abraham, dean of YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Previous YBI/YSU collaborations have helped turn Youngstown into a hotspot where manufacturers can learn how to integrate new technologies into their operations. The YSU/YBI partnership has helped Youngstown earn the designation from the State of Ohio as a Hub of Innovation and Opportunity for Advanced Materials and Software. More importantly, the partnership helped to bring the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (also known as America Makes) to Youngstown. “Without YSU’s support,” Ewing said, “YBI simply wouldn’t have been in a position to have provided them with a facility.”

The new precision hybrid manufacturing project adds yet another reason for manufacturing companies to look to Youngstown. 

This initiative builds upon a successful proposal to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute to help metal casting companies understand how to optimize the use of additive manufacturing technology in the foundry industry. “Any company that can take advantage of rapid manufacturing for components will be able to do so without having to invest in equipment or machinery,” Ewing said. 

“There are a number of different applications, so companies will be able to take time to learn for themselves how the technology can be adapted to meet their specific needs with very little cost or risk to their existing operations.”