Thumbs Up: Metal 3-D printer expands options for businesses
A West Virginia organization that aims to help businesses with their manufacturing, development and training needs has added another tool to its array of services.
The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing now has an advanced 3-D metal printer at its technology center at Marshall University's South Charleston campus. Others collaborating to bring the $750,000 machine to the state include Marshall, the U.S. Navy and ATK. The Navy owns and ATK operates the Missile Products Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, W.Va.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said the presence of the machine -- described as one of the most advanced in the Mid-Atlantic region -- is "extremely beneficial because few can afford such specialized equipment." But through RCBI's programs for leasing and training on advanced equipment, interested businesses can learn about and utilize the machine on a short-term basis without having to purchase one.
3-D printing also is called additive manufacturing. The printers turn digital designs into three-dimensional models. They can be fed a variety of substances to build the products layer by layer. The process means less waste than the traditional manufacturing process of removing materials to create a finished product.
The 3-D printer's availability will be useful for businesses wanting to make equipment parts or prototypes for new inventions or products, officials said. "This printer, and our other non-metal printers, provide them the ability to print one more cheaply than the traditional manufacturing process," said Mike Friel, RCBI public information officer. "They come in, we teach them to use the equipment and they can manufacture the parts themselves."
All of it adds up to many potential benefits for the region's businesses and budding entrepreneurs.
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