Sean Casten (D-IL 6th District), the US representative for a broad swathe of Chicago’s western suburbs, was recently named Vice Ranking Member of the House of Representatives’ Minority Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The assignment has sparked the congressman’s increased interest in additive manufacturing (AM), including the techniques of Sciaky, Inc., an Illinois-based specialist in metal AM, whose headquarters Casten recently toured.
Sciaky’s patented Electron Beam AM (EBAM) method is, according to the company, “the only large-scale metal 3D printing solution” with applications certified for use across the entire military spectrum: land, sea, air, and space. Electron beam 3D printing is distinct from laser-based methods in that it relies on a stream of electrons, instead of photons, to heat the (usually metal) feedstock. In addition to extreme precision, the method also facilitates extremely fast print times.
Sciaky, a division of defense and space company Phillips Service Industries (PSI), says the company’s printers can deposit 40 pounds of titanium per hour. According to Sciaky, this makes its platforms the fastest metal printers on the market. The company also places a strong emphasis on automation, and has its own algorithm-based adaptive control platform, the Interlayer Real-time Imaging and Sensing System (IRISS).
These days, with all of the money flowing into the AM industry from the public sector — especially the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Energy (DOE) — Sciaky should have an easy time finding customers no matter what. That the company is on the radar of its local US representative clearly reinforces this assumption. Moreover, about a year ago, Sciaky’s technology was exhibited to President Biden at United Performance Metals in Ohio, during the rollout phase of Biden’s AM Forward initiative.
Beyond just Sciaky, the event is yet another example of exactly how important the Midwest is to the Biden administration’s plan to revitalize American manufacturing. Ohio is the state that usually gets the most attention, which itself also alludes to how politically motivated is this support for the economic base of the American heartland. But Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota, are all also getting ample attention, from public and private capital in equal measure.
So, while there is certainly a big surge of capital expenditure on manufacturing being spread across the nation as a whole, it nonetheless does at least “feel” like a disproportionate amount of money is going to the Midwest. If, as it seems to be, the purpose of the spending’s overall geographic distribution is to reorganize the nation’s economy into regional advanced manufacturing clusters, then there would also be a nonpolitical logic to prioritizing the Midwest, simply insofar as it would be the most centrally located cluster relative to all the others.
Images courtesy of Sciaky
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