There’s a big focus on Ohio for manufacturing. In fact, in 2012, Youngstown, OH, was chosen to be the flagship institute (America Makes) for Manufacturing USA, a national accelerator for technology research and innovation in additive manufacturing and 3D.
As Rick Neff, of Rick Neff, LLC, says, “In Ohio, we know how to make things.”
Neff’s two-year-old Cincinnati company contracts with manufacturers who are implementing additive technologies. We had the opportunity to speak with Neff about additive manufacturing and what his company does.
Let’s start with some basics. What is additive manufacturing?
Neff: Traditionally, machinists take a block of material and machine away part of the material to get the part you want. We create a 3D representation of that part using CAD software. Once we have that software representation, we place it into really small, thin layers. We then build those layers one at a time until we’ve built the part from the bottom to the top.
What are the advantages of additive manufacturing?
Neff: It enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems. Typical manufacturing practices like injection molding require expensive tooling that has a long lead time. Additive manufacturing has a shortened lead time. The tech also allows you to make many prototypes to optimize the design, and there is a savings in cost and time. And sometimes there’s just no other way to make a particular part design other than additive manufacturing.
What made you start a company in this field?
Neff: There’s a real lack of qualified people that really understand the industry, people who “get it.” I decided to start my own company doing consulting work for those people. I spend half my time learning new tech around additive manufacturing and the other half sharing what I know.
Who are your clients?
Neff: FireHawk Aerospace is one of our clients. They make hybrid rocket engines. They’re using 3D so the engines can be made as quickly and inexpensively as possible while leaving less room for error. Catalysis is another—it’s in the vacuum forming and composites manufacturing space. OpenAdditive uses Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing systems.
What is your background?
Neff: I grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended Lehigh University. I lived in San Francisco, LA, Boston, and then moved to Cincinnati about 28 years ago because my wife at the time was transferred here for her job at Procter & Gamble.
How does Cincy stack up to those other cities?
Neff: Cincinnati has everything to offer that any of the large cities do. It’s got great music. It’s got great culture. It’s got a fabulous restaurant scene—if you’re a foodie, it’s a great place to live right now.
And it doesn’t have the problems of the big city. It doesn’t have a high cost of living and it’s easy to get around. You’re not stuck in traffic all the time. The people are friendly. It’s a good place to grow a company as well.
What do you see for the future of additive manufacturing?
Neff: Additive manufacturing has been growing at a double-digit pace for the last 10 years or so and I see it growing at a double-digit pace for the next 10 years. The technology is always changing.