By TOM BUGNITZ
When the right project meets the right people with the right motivations, great things can happen. Personal agendas disappear, trust is built, resources mesh, and a common vision emerges that can benefit not just those involved, but the larger community too. When this happens, it can be a model for how things can be done to move an entire state forward.
Such has been the case over the last two years, culminating as I sat in a conference room and watched the state’s Economic Development Commission allocate $2.5M to position Colorado as the premier center for advanced metal additive manufacturing. OEDIT’s Advanced Industry Infrastructure Grant Program was the source of the funding, and this was by far the largest grant ever awarded through this program.
The “right project” will build a practical research center in Colorado that will provide testing, performance analysis, and materials knowledge about 3D metal printed parts, especially as those parts apply to aerospace and advanced manufacturing. This is an area that is critical to pushing America forward in advanced manufacturing, and Colorado will be in the lead. This project will produce tangible, useable results starting within the next few months, and with the infrastructure built by this grant well into the next decade. In fact, work has already started in determining what and how to manufacture test parts, and the first analysis will begin shortly.
The “right people” were a team pulled together by Heidi Hostetter and Alicia Svaldi, the energy and brains behind Faustson Tool, one of the leading aerospace precision machine shops in the world. Heidi, a force of nature on her own, convened a diverse group of organizations and people that included Faustson, with knowledge of precision machining and 3D metal additive manufacturing; the Colorado School of Mines and two of its star professors in materials and metallurgical science; Lockheed Martin, represented by a distinguished materials engineer and former NASA researcher; Ball Aerospace, contributing expertise in materials research and aerospace engineering; and Manufacturer's Edge, the Colorado Manufacturing Extension Partner, bringing connections to NIST and the large community of small manufacturers who will also benefit from the research. Lockheed Martin, Faustson, Colorado School of Mines, and Ball Aerospace stepped up not only with people and expertise, but money: those four organizations matched the $2.5M with over $5M of their own money to get this center off of the ground. To paraphrase the old joke, that isn’t contribution, that’s commitment.
The “right motivations” were simple and shared by everyone on the team: make Colorado the leader for knowledge and expertise in how to make the best 3D metal additive parts in the world, especially in the aerospace industry. At every step of the process, as the project was being formed, everyone kept one goal in mind: make Colorado companies, academia, and people the best there is in this field, and let the world know that Colorado is the place to come to be on the leading edge of this research and commercial application.
We believe that this is how things should work in pushing Colorado forward into advanced manufacturing. Partners that include public and private companies, service organizations that support manufacturing, a major research university, and OEDIT, the economic development arm of the State of Colorado, all working together and contributing expertise, people, and money can build an asset that will bring benefits for years to come. A multi-faceted team producing tangible results immediately and for the long-term, that help one of our key industries as well as manufacturing in general, can prove to the community that these partnerships can work, can produce results, and are wise and necessary investments.
I personally thank the entire team that pulled this proposal together, the Economic Development Commissioners, and Fiona Arnold, Executive Director of OEDIT and her entire AI team for their support, assistance, and willingness to invest in such an important project. We are committed to making this a model for such partnerships, and we look forward to doing great things for this State and its manufacturers.