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New Innovation Center grant to support services for region’s makers and entrepreneurs

From Staff Reports | Aug 20, 2019

ATHENS, Ohio (Aug. 20, 2019)—The Ohio University Innovation Center (IC) and the LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network (LIGHTS) have received a second grant from the Athens County Commissioners to expand access to product development and prototyping equipment to the region’s makers and entrepreneurs.

The award of $90,000 from the Ohio Development Services Agency Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund will allow the IC and LIGHTS to continue to offer community members one-on-one, hands-on product design and equipment training. The cost-free 3D design, scanning and printing training is open to the public but aims to assist low-to-moderate income individuals.

The Athens County Commissioners initially awarded a $60,000 grant to the two programs last year to purchase new equipment for the Additive Manufacturing Lab.

“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 IC’s Additive Manufacturing Lab equipment includes three 3D printers, a desktop mill, a portable 3D scanner and a vacuum former. The equipment allows the regional community and university to design prototypes and manufacture products on demand. 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 equipment is part of a broader plan to create an infrastructure to support manufacturing growth and leverage the national maker movement in Appalachia. Since 2016, LIGHTS has been building a network of makerspaces and product development service providers that offer expertise, training and access to resources for the region’s entrepreneurs, companies and local communities that have an interest in building a product and/or creating a business.

“Our region’s heritage aligns with making and producing products. We have real innovators in our midst who may not even realize that they have the potential to produce marketable products,” said Jennifer Simon, executive director of regional innovation at Ohio University.  “We want to give the county’s residents the opportunity to explore additive manufacturing and other product processes such as vacuum forming to pick up the skills that make our economy stronger.”

For more information about the Additive Manufacturing Lab, or to schedule a project or individual training session, contact Misako Hata, lab director of the Innovation Center, at 740-593-1818 or  3Dprinter@ohio.edu.