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Buffalo’s new manufacturing lab designed to prepare students

Buffalo Manufacturing Works celebrated the debut of a laboratory aimed at firing the imaginations of high school students interested in science and technology.

The Additive Manufacturing Learning Lab’s classes give juniors and seniors a chance to learn to use 3-D printing technology, which is catching on among manufacturers. The machines enable users to create parts one layer at a time. Advocates say the technology allows for flexible designs, with different combinations of materials.

Friday was National Manufacturing Day, and the manufacturing research center on Main Street – a $45 million piece of the Buffalo Billion – and Insyte Consulting used the occasion to highlight the lab’s potential.

Praxair will contribute a total of $75,000 for the lab to EWI, the nonprofit organization that manages Buffalo Manufacturing Works. The manufacturing center is designed to help area companies try out technologies and ideas; the learning lab for students is one component of its work.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-N.Y.), Rep. Brian Higgins, (D-Buffalo), and Mayor Byron Brown visited the lab on Friday and emphasized the importance of preparing more young people for manufacturing careers.

“For too long, high-tech manufacturing companies in New York have struggled to fill open positions, as prospective employees don’t have sufficient training to take on those jobs,” Gillibrand said.

Meanwhile, she said, the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs – known as STEM – in the state continues to grow. “It’s unacceptable that while we have high unemployment in many of our communities here, we also have high-skilled, good-paying jobs that can’t be filled, because companies can’t find the workers they need to fill them.”

The new lab, Gillibrand said, will help get people ready to fill those jobs.

Higgins said the nature of the manufacturing work place has changed over time, and the lab will help equip young people for those kinds of jobs.

“You go to the auto plants today, there used to be four or five workers working on one machine,” he said. “Now it’s one worker that’s highly trained, working on several machines.”