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Department of Commerce awards $3 million to Auburn for additive manufacturing research

3D metal printer produces a steel part. A revolutionary technology for sintering metal parts. Soft focus.

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Auburn University more than $3 million for research and development of techniques to improve additive manufacturing.

The $3,087,090 grant came from the department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, announced the grant Wednesday.

“Auburn University has become a national leader in the field of additive manufacturing,” Shelby said. “This NIST grant will provide Auburn the unique opportunity to innovate and empower engineering industries, boosting efforts to promote the continued economic growth of our manufacturing sector.  The research, training, and development that will take place as a result of this funding will allow the university to advance additive manufacturing and continue competing on a national stage.”  

Auburn will use the NIST award to address issues facing the additive manufacturing industry. Specifically, the initiative will conduct cutting-edge research and train graduate and undergraduate students, all while developing and promoting technological innovations that advance the pace of the additive manufacturing industry.

“Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing industries ranging from aviation to medical instruments to automotive,” said Auburn University President Steven Leath.  “Thanks to Senator Shelby, the State of Alabama is providing national leadership in developing and refining these technologies that foster economic opportunity, improve quality of life and strengthen our country’s infrastructure.”

Auburn’s National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence plans to use the money to expand its programs to include new research programs on metrology, which is the measurement and characterization of 3D-printed parts. It will also advance process models to allow engineers to predict properties and performance of 3D printed parts.

The research resulting from this grant will have a strong technical and economic impact on various industries in the United States, Shelby’s office said. 

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Auburn University and NASA collaborated to found NCAME in 2017. The center is currently conducting groundbreaking research and development that will advance additive manufacturing technology, provide appropriate standards to help this new manufacturing sector grow and develop the workforce needed to keep manufacturing industries productive and profitable.  

The center is also part of a new Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, a collaborative effort among Auburn, NASA, the American Society for Testing and Materials International, and the Edison Welding Institute. Auburn’s NCAME aims to foster effective collaborations between industry, government, academia, non-profit organizations and ASTM committees to aid in global efforts to close workforce development gaps in additive manufacturing, the Senator’s office said.


Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.



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The grants are from the Alabama Research and Development Enhancement Fund, a state-funded program created in 2019.