New grant to expand Cincinnati-area job training for 3-D manufacturing

Job opportunities in additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, are about to get a boost in Greater Cincinnati thanks to a new approximately $1 million grant for training workers on the subject, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

A group of local industry experts and educators has been awarded the funding to buy equipment needed to expand training opportunities for students and existing workers in the field, said Jeff Robinson, spokesman for the state education department.

Hopes are more training in an in-demand career can help address the gap between manufacturers needing more skilled workers and job applicants seeking work, he said.

“We’re wanting to strengthen Ohio’s workforce,” said Robinson, who also explained grants are being awarded in different regions statewide for various training programs.

Local collaborators on the project to advance the Cincinnati-area’s 3-D skill set include Miami University, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Technical College and economic development firm REDI Cincinnati, according to the state.

Also part of the effort are the career schools Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, Great Oaks Career Campus, Southern Hills Career and Technical Center, Warren County Career Center and manufacturing industry consultant TechSolve, according to a press release from Miami University.

Previously used mainly to build models and prototypes, additive manufacturing has advanced to make end parts, said Doug Bowling, dean of the Center for Innovative Technologies at Cincinnati State. His college’s share of funding will go to buy equipment to teach students to operate the printing machines, perform maintenance and design computer files for additive uses, Bowling said.

“Just like we teach people to be a machinist, we’re going to teach them to be additive manufacturers too,” he said.

More details about how the effort will move forward are expected to be shared at a scheduled event Monday, according to Miami. Stay tuned to for updates.

Miami University expects to buy 3-D printing and scanning equipment to be housed in the Business, Engineering, Science and Technology Library in Oxford, where it can be accessed by students and faculty across campus, said Jessica Sparks, an associate professor in the chemical, paper and biomedical engineering department.

Additional equipment will also be purchased for the regional campuses, Sparks said.

It’s important to introduce students to machinery they’ll encounter on the job, according to Sparks.

“The equipment will be used heavily … by engineering students because these students have a particular interest in manufacturing methods,” she said.

Additive is a major trend in the manufacturing industry nationwide affecting how things are made. It is the process of creating solid objects from a digital file by printing thin layers of material one on top of another.

Traditional manufacturing typically takes a piece of metal, or other material, and machines it away to get to the end object.

The market for additive manufacturing, consisting of all products and services worldwide, grew 35.2 percent to $4.1 billion in 2014, according to Wohlers Associates Inc., a Fort Collins, Colo., independent consulting firm on the subject. It’s the firm’s most recent information available.

“It’s an up and coming industry that we want to be part of,” said Erin Rolfes, spokeswoman for REDI Cincinnati, which leads the region’s efforts on business attraction and retention. “There’s already some expertise here and we have the capacity to do more.”

“As more folks here can show a skill set, it’s only good for us to be able to attract more manufacturing jobs that are specializing in this area,” Rolfes said.

Jet engine maker GE Aviation of Evendale is a leader in the region in the field.

This year GE and joint venture CFM International launch the new jet engine LEAP, the first commercial jet engine to contain an additively manufactured part (fuel nozzles) in a critical area as well as materials made from ceramic matrix composites, according to the company.

GE Aviation has also opened a new Additive Development Center in West Chester Twp. where it consolidated research and development activities previously spread across multiple sites under one roof in a renovated facility on Windisch Road.

Additionally, additive manufacturing has applications in the biohealth industry and has been used to build prototypes of medical devices, according to REDI Cincinnati. Blue Ash-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals last fall announced it received the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a 3-D printed drug. The drug, used to treat seizures, dissolves in the mouth with the sip of a liquid, according to Aprecia.

“By combining (3-D printed) technology with a highly-prescribed epilepsy treatment, SPRITAM is designed to fill a need for patients who struggle with their current medication experience,” said Don Wetherhold, chief executive officer of Aprecia, in a written statement released last August. “This is the first in a line of central nervous system products Aprecia plans to introduce as part of our commitment to transform the way patients experience taking medication.”