RCBI unveils new 3-D metal printer
HUNTINGTON -- The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing has added a advanced 3-D metal printer to its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Marshall University's South Charleston campus.
The printer's addition was made possible by a collaborative partnership between RCBI, Marshall University, U.S. Navy and ATK.
Sen. Joe Manchin was in Charleston Friday to announce the $750,000 printer, one of the most advanced in the Mid-Atlantic region, is now available for West Virginia and national business and manufacturers.
"I am very pleased to support this public/private collaboration, which now will provide manufacturers in our state with advanced metal 3-D printing capabilities," Manchin said. "This metal 3-D printer available to our state's businesses is extremely beneficial because few can afford such specialized equipment. By having this advanced technology, we are able to further position our state for economic development and help make our existing manufacturers even more competitive."
As with other RCBI technology, the 3-D metal printer will be available to not only West Virginia small businesses and manufacturers, but to anyone across the country. Mike Friel, RCBI public information officer, said 3-D printers are useful for those looking to print equipment parts, as well as prototypes for new inventions.
"We have people come to us with inventions or designs, but they need a prototype to see if it works -- this printer, and our other non-metal printers, provide them the ability to print one more cheaply than the traditional manufacturing process," Friel said. "They come in, we teach them to use the equipment and they can manufacture the parts themselves."
Larger entities also are interested in a 3-D metal printer being in their backyard. Charlotte Weber, RCBI director and CEO, said during the announcement event that several industries; including aviation, automotive, oil and natural gas and aerospace are looking for manufacturers who use emerging 3-D technologies.
The metal printer joins the existing thermoplastic and polymer systems already available at RCBI. Friel cites the printer's fully automated operation, lack of tooling needed and reduced material wastes to be key advantages of 3-D technology.
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