The Opelika-Auburn News has written about Auburn’s Additive Manufacturing Accelerator, and the City of Auburn’s partnership with Auburn University to grow high-tech, high-flexibility manufacturing in the area. The OA News writes:
Auburn city officials are reaching out to university faculty and local entrepreneurs, offering them opportunities to get into a new branch of manufacturing.
The Additive Manufacturing Accelerator targets startup businesses that use additive manufacturing – which is related to the 3D printing that has emerged on shop floors around the world.
In essence, these businesses use specially formulated plastics (or polymers, as they are commonly referred to) and 3D printers to create made-to-order products for customers. Such products are in high demand at large scale production operations, such as the die casting and automotive plants along the Interstate 85 corridor.
Most of it is piecework – nothing like the old methods of gearing up labor-intensive production lines; rather, it typically involves an engineer designing a product and another engineering writing the software to instruct the printer how to carve up the polymer.
“There is freedom in design of the part you’re casting,” explained Arndt Siepmann, the city’s Deputy Director for Economic Development. “You can print something in a shape that you cannot cast or machine (by hand). If I create this thing and then I drill holes in it, I can only drill straight holes; now, if I design something and print it I can print it so there is a curve in here.
“The second thing is, of course, how quick it is. If I have a drawing, I can create a (software) file and put it on the machine a day later,” Siepmann continued.
The Accelerator is a partnership with Auburn University, the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence and the city’s Training Connection. It provides advice and some funding to such businesses to help them find customers, hire employees, establish manufacturing processes and the like.
The city’s accelerator program runs through the fall of 2021. The goal is to help 10 local companies and three startups and – at the same time – create new training opportunities for Auburn engineering students and a new local industry to employ local workers, Siepmann said.