Bioengineering student Jack Roeder uses 3-D printing equipment at University of Louisville’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology
Bioengineering student Jack Roeder uses 3-D printing equipment at University of Louisville’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology

UofL and the state’s manufacturing extension partnership, the Advantage Kentucky Alliance, are launching a new program to help manufacturers adopt 3D printing technology for their businesses to develop better products and improve productivity.

The program, called Accelerated Innovative Manufacturing with 3D Printing, or AIM-3DP, will provide small and medium manufacturers in the automotive and aerospace sectors with training, mentorship and UofL-backed research, development and consulting. The work is backed by a new $90,000 grant, one of only three of its kind in the country, from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

“The goal is to help these companies take advantage of cutting-edge, future-focused technologies,” said principal investigator Kunal Kate, assistant professor in UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering. “My hope is that we can build on the research and innovation we’re doing in advanced manufacturing at UofL and use it to help companies throughout Kentucky.”

AIM-3DP will partner manufacturers with UofL researchers and students, who will work side-by-side to identify better, more efficient ways to manufacture, develop new product lines and grow. The projects can be any size, though AIM-3DP will select two larger projects for more in-depth work and will split costs with the company.

AKA will provide AIM-3DP companies with coaching and training on business development, continuous improvement and leadership. Companies also will receive grant writing training in hopes that projects may lead to Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer applications to fund technology development and innovation.

Companies can apply to be part of the program here.

“Our mission at AKA is to assist Kentucky manufacturers and distributors by boosting productivity and growth opportunities so they can retain and create additional jobs, be more globally competitive and produce new revenue streams,” said Scott Broughton, AKA’s center director. “AIM-3DP can help us fulfill that mission, and I’m excited to work with UofL to make that happen.”

The grant to AIM-3DP is funded by a research grant APLU received from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, a physical sciences laboratory and non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. The initiative explores how public universities can develop and scale partnerships with Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers to increase the capacity of small and medium-sized manufacturers to adopt technologies key for their success.

“We know technology adoption is critical for the success and long-term sustainability of small and medium-sized manufacturers,” said Sheila Martin, vice president for economic and community engagement at APLU. “Yet barriers to uptake of new technologies still force too many manufacturers out of business. We’re excited these public universities, MEP Centers, and private sector partners are stepping up to find new models for increased success.”

The AIM-3DP program builds on both partners’ strengths. At UofL, companies will have access to a robust infrastructure for additive manufacturing and materials innovation, including the UofL Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology, known as AMIST, and its well-equipped center for rapid manufacturing.

“Kentucky has a rich manufacturing history to be proud of,” said Will Metcalf, associate vice president for research development and partnerships in UofL’s Office of Research and Innovation. “Through this work with AKA, we will help Kentucky manufactures innovate, adopt cutting edge technologies, and stay competitive.”

Other partnerships receiving AIM-3DP grants are Northern Illinois University/Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center and Ohio University/Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership Southeast.

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Baylee Pulliam leads research marketing and communications at UofL, building on her experience as an award-winning business, technology, health care and startups reporter. She is a proud product of the UofL College of Arts and Sciences, where she earned her undergraduate degree in English. She also holds an MBA, a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership and is pursuing a Ph.D. in the latter with a focus on corporate innovation. Her great loves include Star Trek: Voyager, coffee, puns and coffee-related puns. (She likes those a latte.)