Rust never sleeps, especially in Ohio. The heart of the steel manufacturing has suffered more from the decline of the industry and the recession more than anywhere else in America, and 3D Printing has been hyped for how it could bring jobs back. It might, but the story is more complicated than what it seems.

You Could Print A Lot of Chocolate with $70 Million Dollars

The Obama Administration is putting $30 million into the new ‘National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute’, to be located in Youngstown, Ohio. NAMII is a public-private partnership – $40 million is coming from a massive consortium of 40 companies, 9 Research Universities, 5 Community Colleges and 11 Non-Profit Organizations (listed below).

(Alright, it’s a CNC machine – but he’s hanging out at Ponoko so that’s good enough)

Here’s what the big guy in the White House had to say.

I’m pleased that we are taking steps to strengthen American manufacturing by launching a new manufacturing institute in Ohio,” said President Obama. “This institute will help make sure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow take root not in places like China or India, but right here in the United States of America.  That’s how we’ll put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts.

In-Sourcing Jobs?

3D Printing is great, but I’m less than certain that it’s going to bring back jobs to the United States. Mostly because there is still a massive labour component to 3D printing and the high cost. Therefore, places that have low labour costs mean lower prices for consumers. And even though shipping is a hassle, rates often make up for the difference – out-sourcing might just be cheaper. I spoke with Bartosz Bos, a former logistics manager at Figureprints, a 3D printing company based in Vancouver, Canada who take characters created by World of Warcraft users and turn them into life-like figurines.

While 3dPrinting and additive manufacturing processes are being hailed as revolutionary, it is important to keep in mind, that like any kind of manufacturing, there is still a significant amount of labour required to produce each individual part from start to finish.

The price for the same work from Asia is the same, in spite of the cost of shipping and handling. Furthermore, Chinese manufacturers aren’t held down by niceties like IP licensing or royalties to gaming companies. Although inventing is America’s comparative advantage, busting it out in bulk seems like the more difficult challenge.

NAMII Consortium is made of:

40 Companies: Allegheny Technologies, AlphaMicron, Applied Systems and Technology Transfer, Autodesk, Boeing, Catalyst Connection, Energy Industries of Ohio, ExOne, FMW Composites, General Dynamics, General Electric, Honeywell, IBM, Johnson Controls, Kennametal, Kent Displays, Laser Technology Assts, Lockheed Martin, Lubrizol, M-7 Technologies, MicroFab Technologies, Morris, Northrop Grumman, nScrypt, OSRAM Sylvania, Optomec, Oxford Performance Materials, Paramount Industries / 3D Systems, Parker Hannifin, Plextronix, POM, RTI, Ruger, Sciaky, Stratasys, Stratonics, Timken, Touchstone Research Lab, Westinghouse Nuclear, Wohlers Associates

9 Research Universities: Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, Lehigh University, Penn State University, Robert Morris University, University of Akron, University of Pittsburgh, Youngstown State University

5 Community Colleges: Eastern Gateway Community College, Lorain County Community College, Northampton Community College, Penn College of Technology, Westmoreland County Community College

11 Non-Profit Organizations: Association for Manufacturing Technology, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, JumpStart Ohio, Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, MT Connect, NorTech, National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium, Ohio Aerospace Institute, Robert C. Byrd Institute, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Source: 3Ders and the White House