The South Bend - Elkhart Region, a five-county region representing Marshall, Elkhart and St. Joseph counties in Indiana and Cass and Berrien counties in Michigan has all the pieces to turn powdered metal and a plan into a durable prototype or part. The inaugural Additive Manufacturing Regional Summit on July 26, 2018 demonstrated not only what's possible, but what's happening here.
"It was a really good, exciting conference to showcase who's in the region," said Joel Neidig, director of research and development for ITAMCO (Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies), a company headquartered in Plymouth that is using a variety of technologies to supply heavy-duty industries including mining, off-highway vehicles, marine, and aviation.
Eighty people attended the summit hosted by ITAMCO at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth. The event featured six speakers from local and midwestern companies as well as the University of Notre Dame and National Science Foundation. Representatives from Fortune 500 companies attended the event, as did local industry students and others interested in the burgeoning technology.
Jennifer Howe, a sales representative for EOS, started the summit by explaining how additive manufacturing differs from subtractive manufacturing, which is the traditional CNC machining model.
While many are familiar with how 3D printing can create a model to help an industry, what's newer is how additive manufacturing can be utilized to leverage computer technology, powdered metal and lasers to build something such as a machine part or medical device. EOS creates the machines that turn plans into parts or other intricate elements. Additive manufacturing has matured from only being able to produce prototypes to being able to create parts used in production.
The South Bend - Elkhart Region is home to or near significant players in both aerospace and medical device industries, said Chad Barden, president and CEO of Atlas 3D Inc. and one of the speakers at the summit. Those industries as well as automotive are seeking ways to utilize additive manufacturing and improve it to make it better, faster and more economical.
ITAMCO won a $1.6 grant from America Makes Project in 2015. In April 2017, the company spun off Atlas 3D to commercialize the software needed for additive printing. The company now has a mission of taking the "black art" out metal additive printing by providing a cloud-based software package. The tool called Sunata can run simulations on which orientation and build meets the customer needs on cost, material and distortion. Barden demonstrated the software platform as part of his presentation at the summit, including how it can manage the challenges such as thermal distortion. Metal additive manufacturing welds layers of metal to create something and managing thermal fluctuations to prevent distortion is needed.
Drake Cargnino, business development engineer for Kennametal Stellite, explained at the event how the international company's plant in Goshen creates powders that are turned into layers during additive manufacturing. The plant has two towers through which molten metal is sent and sprayed with inert gases at high pressure to atomize the metal and create a powder.
Kennametal Stellite is another piece of the ecosystem in place in the region. The company has been doing coatings or welding supplies but started creating the powders for the young additive manufacturing industry in the last decade.
"The South Bend - Elkhart area is prime to support that growing industry," Cargnino said, citing the proximity of Notre Dame and leadership at ITAMCO and Atlas 3D. Barden added that this region, in particular because of its proximity to the medical device manufacturers, is on the leading edge of its adoption.
"We are part of the leadership of this industry," Barden said. Other industries, such as automotive, will use it with increasing regularity. "This industry does touch so many verticals," he said.
Neidig added, "It's definitely changing the landscape. It could really revolutionize everything about how we manufacture our products." From rapid prototyping to production, additive manufacturing allows companies to print metal components in-house rather than outsourcing.
The feedback from the summit has been overwhelmingly positive. Willow Wetherall, director of SPARK at St. Mary's College, told the organizers, "Thank you for all your efforts in organizing such an outstanding AM Summit yesterday. I learned a lot and was impressed with what is happening regionally and how well connected we are to cutting edge research and innovation."
Neidig said it will become an annual event at other sites around the region as the industry continues to grow regionally. "It's really exciting. Hopefully it keeps growing in the community," he said.
About the South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership
The South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership is a collaboration of the economic development partners from 47 smart connected communities in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. The Regional Partnership focuses on a long-term systemic approach to advance the region's economy by aligning the efforts of various stakeholders around five key areas:
Educating a world-class WORKFORCE.
Recruiting and retaining great TALENT.
Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES.
Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities.
Helping ENTREPRENEURS thrive.
The Regional Partnership also serves as the Administrator for the Regional Development Authority to allocate Regional Cities Initiative funding to the 26 quality of life projects. The Regional Partnership seeks to unify and collaborate so that together, the communities across the region to work together to achieve what cannot be done individually. For more information about the Regional Partnership, visit SouthBendElkhart.org.