June 18, 2024

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University and a host of partners have unveiled a new $10 million national technology initiative designed to create jobs and boost the national manufacturing supply chain.

“This gives us an avenue of outreach to companies to offer our assistance,” said Jackie Ruller, YSU’s director of advanced manufacturing research and commercialization.

Ruller discussed the initiative during a meeting Friday morning at the university’s Excellence Training Center that also included representatives from a variety of high-tech companies and firms.

The collaboration among YSU and its partners aims to increase the number of small- to mid-sized businesses that use advanced technologies, as well as to bolster key parts of the defense manufacturing supply chain.

Another major partnership goal is to create jobs by making it easier to adopt industry technologies including robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, as well as to tackle various challenges manufacturers face, such as an aging workforce, short- and long-term work shortages and high costs that make it harder to upgrade to new technologies, officials noted.

“We are excited to host this important launch meeting and to be included in a partnership designed to help our region and the manufacturing community accelerate the transformation of advanced manufacturing capabilities,” Ruller added.

YSU plans to build a laboratory for fields that include automation, robotics and digital technologies. Also in the mix are webinars with such content, and efforts to assist companies with these technologies, Ruller noted.

She added that some students in YSU’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program are being hired for research into areas such as 3-D printing and robotics, a move that aligns with the Excellence Training Center’s mission regarding research, training and education.

Brian Schmidt, program manager and director of the Johnstown, Pa.-based National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, explained that sand casting is a legacy industry upon which much of the technology is centered. Sand casting is a metal molding process that uses non-reusable sand molds to make metal castings of all sizes. Liquid metal is poured into the molds that contain hollow cavities of the desired shapes, then allowed to solidify.

Such molding relies heavily on highly skilled knowledge, said Schmidt, who added that sensors will be embedded into casting molds, a technique that will be introduced at YSU. Casting is important for the U.S. Department of Defense largely because it’s needed for aircraft components, military weapons, vehicles and other uses, he continued.

The NCDMM also manages America Makes in Youngstown.

“Today is like a dream come true,” said YSU President Jim Tressel, who praised the numerous partnerships, including the University of Northern Iowa, YSU has developed in the process. “This was a lot of work by a lot of people who wanted to make a difference and put us on the map.”

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