National additive manufacturing research center coming to Aberdeen

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences has announced plans to establish a new additive manufacturing research center in Aberdeen at the former University Center near the Interstate 95/Route 22 interchange.

Focusing on developing next-generation industrial additive manufacturing, materials and processes, this facility will house leading engineers and the world’s most powerful production technology, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based organization said in a news release.

“Collaboration at the center will lead to scientific breakthroughs in metallurgy and plastics, as well as the launch of new factory machinery that will transform the way U.S. producers make aircraft, automobiles, munitions, medical devices, and other products,” the release states.

The Technology Drive building where the center is going is owned by Harford County government and until recently was managed by Harford Community College for educational and job training programs and technology transfer initiatives.

In April, the county and the college confirmed that the building’s tenants would relocate so it could be used for what a county spokesperson said would be “a technology transfer opportunity in partnership with Army Research Laboratory (ARL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, defense contractors and partners in academia.”

Harford County is providing leased lab, training and administrative space for the manufacturing center, according to the news release.

“We are currently developing a memorandum of understanding on use of the building,” county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said Friday. “Details are still being worked out.”

Officials with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) hope to have the facility ready by early fall, communications director Pam Hurt said Friday.

The center has been working with the county government, the State of Maryland, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland, Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, as well as two of its member firms — 3D Systems Inc., of South Carolina, and Applied Materials Inc., of California — to develop the Aberdeen facility, according to Hurt.

The NCMS will facilitate collaborations at the facility with representatives from government, military, industry and academic institutions “to work together on those big, challenging issues for the technology” related to additive manufacturing, Hurt said.

“They’re going to be coming together at this center in Maryland to work on these challenges that no one partner can manage alone,” she said.

Monday afternoon, Van Hollen’s office announced the Maryland senator secured $15 million in additional funding to propel manufacturing research managed by the Army Research Lab at APG in the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Appropriations Act.

This funding will directly support the Advanced Manufacturing Materials and Processes Consortium (AMMP), which is working to boost next-generation manufacturing, according to a news release from Van Hollen. This funding is in addition to the $23 million that Van Hollen secured in the 2018 spending bill to launch AMMP’s partnership with ARL, the release states.

The AMMP Consortium will be headquartered in the University Center building and will achieve its goals through partnering with local businesses and universities, among others, to create new technologies, according to Van Hollen.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences will work in partnership with the Army Research Lab on AMMP to develop the various manufacturing processes, according to Van Hollen’s office.

“Now that we have the actual funding numbers, that’s really good news for the project,” said Francesca Amodeo, a spokesperson for Van Hollen.

The new center will be called AMMP at what was known as the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center, according to Mumby, the Harford County government spokesperson.

“American manufacturing is the backbone of our economy, and the Army is poised to help drive innovation in this critical sector,” said Van Hollen in a statement. “AMMP’s efforts on 3D printing and other additive manufacturing technologies can help revolutionize the way we make things and spur economic growth and more good-paying jobs in our state and across the country. I am proud to support this critical effort."

Additive manufacturing involves creating components for a slew of applications using 3-D printing equipment. The first 3-D printed component was created by Charles “Chuck” Hull in 1983.

Hull is the co-founder of 3D Systems and inventor of the stereolithography 3-D printing process, according to the company website.

The company is a leader in developing 3D printers and digital manufacturing systems, according to its website.

“It’s not a brand-new technology, but it certainly is revolutionary,” Hurt, of the NCMS, said.

Applied Materials, based in Santa Clara, Calif., “is the leader in materials engineering solutions used to produce virtually every new chip and advanced display in the world,” according to its website. “Our expertise in modifying materials at atomic levels and on an industrial scale enables customers to transform possibilities into reality.”

The center in Aberdeen will support development, adoption and implementation of additive manufacturing as an industry technology. The number of people who will work there has not been determined yet, according to Hurt.

“As a proven leader in advanced technology innovation development, NCMS has the unique ability to engage and work with a wide variety of partners while finding the critical infrastructure, talent, and investment for successful program and project management,” NCMS president Rick Jarman said in a statement. “We believe Aberdeen is the place where these vital innovation ingredients come together and are key to the new industrial revolution.”

Aberdeen Proving Ground, less than four miles to the east of the county-owned building, often bills itself as the “Army’s center of innovation,” in such areas as computing, communication, weaponry, equipment and biological protection development.

With the emergence of 3-D printing and additive manufacturing in recent years, Harford County government, working with leaders in the regional business community and APG, has tried to position the county to take advantage of technology transfer prospects between the military, business and academia.

“This collaboration between government, industry, and academia will advance and build on breakthrough, non-traditional technologies to enable U.S. manufacturers with large-scale additive manufacturing, unprecedented speed in part production, novel designs and materials, dramatic cuts in cost and delivery times, and point-of-need part manufacturing,” the news release announcing the new center states. “The goal is to provide U.S. troops with the most updated platforms and tools available, so they are prepared to face any situation.”

"Our administration is pleased to see two years of planning and partnership come to fruition with this new manufacturing innovation center,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “This unique consortium – which brings significant opportunities to Harford County and the region – will rapidly accelerate manufacturing opportunities in our state, leading to more jobs and a stronger economy.”

“We are excited to work with NCMS and look forward to being active partners in this unprecedented consortium for new manufacturing technology,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.

The location is ideal for the Center, in part, because of its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground, plus there is suitable local infrastructure and “certainly enough talent in the local population to support technology development,” Hurt said.

“We have a long, rich tradition of working in areas that have an ecosystem of existing infrastructure and workforce talent,” she said. “By bringing investment to the table we can collectively innovate new technologies.”

avought@theaegis.com

An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Charles "Chuck" Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems and inventor of the stereolithography 3-D printing process.
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