The Ohio University Innovation Center (IC) and the LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network recently acquired new design and product development equipment for the business incubator’s Additive Manufacturing Lab. The public is invited to an open house to learn more about the lab’s expanded resources from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5.
The Additive Manufacturing Lab now includes new 3D printers, a mill and vacuum former thanks, in part, to an Ohio Development Services Agency Community Development Block Grant awarded by the Athens County Commissioners.
The new pieces of equipment complement the Objet350 Connex from Stratasys, a high-end 3D printer purchased by Ohio University in 2013. The printer has fostered collaboration across the university and the region in the imagination and design of innovative new products, prototypes and working inventions. It remains the largest, highest quality printer within a 70-mile radius.
The purchase of additional low- to mid-level printers and associated production equipment is the next step in a broader plan initiated by university leaders to create more infrastructure to support manufacturing growth in Appalachia. From that initial vision, the IC and LIGHTS built a network of product development service providers that includes partners spanning Appalachia. This network was more formally aligned by the 2016 creation of LIGHTS, which provides expertise, training and access to resources for the region’s workforce, entrepreneurs, companies and local communities that have an interest in building a product and/or creating a business.
“We wanted to create an environment where entrepreneurial and innovative spirits can thrive,” said Jennifer Simon, executive director of regional innovation. “The State of Ohio and the Athens County Commissioners support diversifying the local economy using new ‘making’ methods.”
The new equipment will better allow the regional community and university to design prototypes and manufacture products on demand. The equipment also will expand and enhance the experiential learning opportunities of Russ College of Engineering and Technology students who work in the lab.
Additive manufacturing equipment housed at the IC is open for use to members of the Ohio University community and the general public. Users can either order professional print jobs from the IC for a fee or can learn how to use the printers and associated pieces of equipment in a guided one-on-one session for free. Completed products can be ordered at ohio3dprints.com.
“The county supports efforts to foster businesses and careers in manufacturing to provide our citizens with greater economic opportunities,” said Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason. “The Innovation Center creates companies we have supported through economic development efforts. Now, this new equipment and training allows us to support even more new businesses.”
The open house will be held at the Innovation Center, 340 W. State St., Athens.
For more information about the 3D printer or to schedule a project, contact Misako Hata, lab director of the Innovation Center, at (740) 593-1818, 3Dprinter@ohio.edu.
Ongoing support of the IC and LIGHTS comes from the Ohio Third Frontier, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Ohio University.
About the Innovation Center
In 2016, the IC was named Rural Incubator of the Year by the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA). The IC also was recognized as a 2015-17 Top University Business Incubator in North America by UBI Global, an organization that benchmarks business incubators and accelerators around the world. The center was ranked #8 in the North American region and #3 in the United States.
Ohio University established the LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network through a $2 million grant to Ohio University from the Appalachian Regional Commission in October 2016. The initiative, collaboratively organized with Ohio University’s Innovation Center, aims to help coal-impacted communities across 28 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Among others, partners in this network include The IDEA Lab at Zane State College, Spark 560, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet), the IC, the Shawnee State Kricker Innovation Hub, The Athens MakerSpace, The Epicenter: a Youth and Entrepreneurial Development Center, and coming soon, the Lawrence County Business Incubator.