The Applied Science & Technology Research Organization of America (ASTRO America) has been awarded a $1 Million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program. ASTRO America is among the more than 40 unique teams to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which aim to help partners collaborate to create economic, societal, and technological opportunities for their regions.

Entitled “Advancing Additive Manufacturing Technologies,” this initiative aims to accelerate supply chains’ adoption of 3D printing across the state and help grow capabilities in aerospace, defense, and energy sectors. Florida is recognized as a world leader in these key industries; with this grant, ASTRO America will leverage its AM Forward partnership with several major corporations to support the State’s small and medium sized suppliers transition to additive manufacturing (AM). ASTRO America’s team for this project includes five of the nation’s leading minority serving institutions to coordinate support for small business suppliers’ adoption of AM, including Florida International University, the joint Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Florida.

“Florida remains on the cutting edge of science and technology,” said Neal Orringer, President of ASTRO America. “This initiative will spur further innovation in the field of 3D printing across the State. It will also support job creation, and grow a new generation of engineers and technicians. We could not have better partners in this endeavor than Florida’s universities and business community. We look forward to working with the State and other stakeholders to build a regional innovation engine.”

The NSF Engines program is a transformational investment for the nation, ensuring the U.S.remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come.

“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”

Leading U.S. corporations have signed letters of intent outlining their specific commitment to help deploy AM Forward Florida. Sponsor-companies include Boeing, GE Aviation, Honeywell Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, and Siemens Energy. Each will play an important role in AM Florida, informing requirements and future demand for production technology and materials.

Small manufacturer partners include Sintavia and ACMT Aero. More information on all partners in this effort, including university partners, can be found here.

“We are honored to be part of this ‘All-Star’ Florida university consortium, and fulfilling our role in boosting our State’s manufacturing ecosystem. Together with our industry partners, we aim to deliver integrative, aggregated and repeatable solutions that are grounded in demonstrated innovative technologies distinctively aimed to benefit small-to-medium manufacturing suppliers that will help contribute to Florida’s flourishing economy and high-skilled workforce,” said Forrest Masters, Ph.D., P.E., Interim Dean, University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

“University of Central Florida’s strength in materials engineering and additive manufacturing will benefit this new initiative. We look forward to engaging with our partners in this exciting effort to advance manufacturing capability in Florida and the U.S. through scientific and technological innovations,” said Michael Georgiopoulos, dean, UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science in Orlando.

“There’s many reasons why we are excited to be a part of this important collaboration and the larger aim of advancing AM in these critical sectors,” said Suvranu De, dean of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. “Our renowned facilities and faculty research at the High-Performance Materials Institute, Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion and Aero-Propulsion, Energy and Mechatronics Center exponentially expand the opportunities. But leveraging the joint nature of our college introduces the unique opportunity to recruit and develop the next-generation of AM engineers. It’s exciting to imagine these engineers coming through the HBCU and top-tier research university ecosystem we have created at this college.”

“This consortium provides Florida with an excellent opportunity to lead efforts to expand the discipline of additive manufacturing (AM) using cutting-edge techniques,” said Arvind Agarwal, Chair of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing. “FIU is excited to contribute by leading efforts to craft novel, hands-on curriculum that will serve to cultivate a superior AM workforce for the future, which will benefit aerospace, defense, marine and biomedical industries.”

The awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic areas that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades. These NSF Engines Development Awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystems within two years to prepare strong proposals for becoming future NSF Engines, which will each have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million.

Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the “CHIPS and Science Act of 2022,” the NSF Engines program uniquely harnesses the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines aspire to catalyze robust partnerships to positively impact regional economies, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs.