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Oakland County allots $15 million for 3D printers to small manufacturers

Oakland County allots $15 million for 3D printers to small manufacturers
Oakland County allots $15 million for 3D printers to small manufacturers 02:30
Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., (CBS DETROIT) – Oakland County is expanding a program to give small and mid-size companies a tool that aims to take them to the next level of manufacturing.

Unique Short Tree Design and Upholstery, located at M-59 Crooks Business Park, opened four years ago.

During the pandemic, they obtained a 3D printer for free that helped their business survive.

Now it's thriving. 

"It's not waiting for parts to come, you know, from overseas. It's from our printer to actually using it. And we were actually able to do the design of this one part and be able to produce the chair in just a day," Tammy Packard, the owner of Unique Short Tree Design, told CBS News Detroit.

Packard received the 3D Printer through Project DIAMOnD, an initiative from Oakland County and Automation Alley that began in October 2020.

During the project's first phase, Oakland County spent $10 million from the CARES Act to give away 250 3D printers to mom-and-pop manufacturers.

"We thought it would help us out being able to lower our costs; we never realized that was going to help us from our supply line and our carbon footprint for our customers. So it's been a win-win situation for us throughout the program," Packard said.

Besides giving them the equipment, companies also received training to use the 3D printers immediately.

"We really need to have our manufacturers understand the power of 3D printing, what 3D printing brings to the table," Pavan Muzumdar, COO of Automation Alley, said. "Traditional manufacturing is very process driven, and 3D printing is much more design driven."

The county is now setting aside $15 million to buy more 3D printers as the project enters its second phase.

"By leaning into this technology, we can preserve our existing businesses, grow our manufacturing base, not only here in Oakland County, but across the state and across the country, so that we can compete with the world," David Coulter, County Executive for Oakland County said during a news conference on Wednesday. 

During the second phase, Oakland County is looking to distribute another 250 3D printers to small and mid-size companies.

"This is what making in America looks like," Dave Woodward, Chairman of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, said to CBS News Detroit. "This is what keeping jobs here in America in the manufacturing space, raising wages and all that type of stuff, is tied to this."

If you are interested in applying for Project DIAMOnD, click here.

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