Rochester Institute of Technology is now home to a state-of-the-art research facility, concentrating on the growing 3D printing industry.
State officials and RIT staff held a grand opening ceremony at the Henrietta campus on Tuesday, showcasing the Additive Manufacturing and Multifunctional Printing (AMPrint) Center. It joins New York State’s list of Centers for Advanced Technology.
“When I walked into this room, I felt like I walked into the future,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, “RIT students are learning the skills that will make them marketable to today’s employers, and that is the model that will lead to jobs.”
The RIT center was awarded $921,000 a year, up for renewal for up to 10 years (pending satisfactory performance) from Empire State Development, New York State’s economic development agency. Another investment from the Higher Education Capital Facilities Program totaled $500,000, and was matched by the university and corporate partners to support construction of the lab.
“Luring new companies here, forming new startups and new products for existing companies, new technologies: that’s what we’re really about and what those funds help us do,” said Professor Denis Cormier, the center’s director.
The school has been recognized for big 3D printing projects such as e-NABLE, which created limbs for children. Cormier said the AMPrint Center hopes to continue the momentum with the creation of more 3D printing and imaging devices.
“This really helps us get a lot of those people together and try to get a lot of the work that’s being done here on campus pushed out into the real world where it should be,” he said.
The technology that the public is most familiar with now is using 3D printers to make simple prototypes. Cormier said next-generation multifunctional 3D printing technologies developed in the lab will be faster and will produce components made from a broad array of materials.
At the ceremony, demonstrations of the work currently underway at the AMPrint Center included a football helmet with 3D-printed, custom, protective padding. A multifunctional machine called Starlight, developed by a partnership between Sensor Films, Inc., Xerox, and RIT was designed to print two different types of inks.
Jeff Drawe, of Xerox, said a school is the perfect hub for this type of center, since it allows for designs to be tested before they are ready to be marketed.
“We're getting hindsight before we actually go to market and get feedback from real customers. Having it in this environment - for lack of a better term - is a little bit more tolerant of directional miscues, if you will,” said Drawe.
The state is poised to become a world leader in 3D printing, an industry that is expected to grow by more than 31 percent per year by 2020 and generate more than $21 billion worldwide, according to Wohler’s 2015 State of the Industry report.
The 3,200-square-foot facility at RIT will open for business on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.