Alfred University News

Construction under way on $7.75 million CREATE Center at Alfred University

Construction has begun on a facility in Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics which will assist the state’s ceramics industry in developing new materials and processes that can be made ready for commercialization.

ALFRED, NY – Construction has begun on a facility in Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics which will assist the state’s ceramics industry in developing new materials and processes that can be made ready for commercialization. 

The Ceramic Research, Education and Technology Enterprise (CREATE) Center, located in the first floor of the McMahon Engineering Building, will house a research center focusing on the development of novel materials and scalable processes in the areas of additive manufacturing/3-D printing, high-temperature processing, and ceramic machining/finishing. The project is supported by a $7.75 million grant from the State University of New York, administered by the SUNY Construction Fund.

The CREATE Center aims to address challenges faced by New York’s ceramics industry by providing access to cutting-edge research, intellectual property, analytical testing services, and workforce development programs. The facility will be promoted to industrial partners through Alfred University’s Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT), whose mission is to support the growth of New York State’s technical ceramics and glass sectors. CACT works to develop industry-sponsored projects at Alfred—from short term analytical projects to long term sponsored research agreements—and provides matching support for projects with New York State-based firms.

Construction on the approximately 13,000-square-foot space which will house the CREATE Center began in the spring and is expected to be completed by late summer 2022. According to Dr. John Simmins, CACT executive director, approximately half the $7.75 million in grant funding will be used for construction costs, while the other half will fund the acquisition of equipment supporting applied research.

The CREATE Center will house ceramic additive manufacturing, machining, and high-temperature processing labs, staffed by faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students from Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering. The Center will achieve new revenues primarily through a mix of research—industry- and government-sponsored—and educational programming. 

Additive manufacturing allows for three-dimensional printing of complex shapes made from ceramic materials. These shapes often cannot be formed using conventional ceramic processing. As a result, additive manufacturing unlocks a vast array of new applications for ceramics. The printed objects are used as components by a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, biomedical, petrochemical, and electronics.

“Going from the idea stage to the prototype stage is made much easier with additive manufacturing,” Simmins commented. “It’s staggering what can be done with this type of technology. I can’t think of a sector of industry that couldn’t make use of it.”

With ceramic machining, equipment is used to subtractively modify traditionally manufactured ceramic parts, whether they are green or fully sintered. Ceramic machining of certain high-performance materials is not well understood, often representing more art than science.  However, machining is critical to allow high performance materials to operate while exposed to a range of environmentally harsh conditions where ceramics perform best. The CREATE Center will work to better understand the various factors that impact machined ceramics to allow for enhanced performance and standardized/scalable processes. 

High-temperature processing impacts the development of materials that can withstand extreme temperatures and environments. These materials can be used in high performance-demanding applications, including at hypersonic speeds in the aerospace and defense industries, where objects—spacecraft, military aircraft or missiles, for example—are exposed to extreme conditions.

Research into additive manufacturing, ceramic machining, and high-temperature processing will benefit ceramics businesses from across the state. “The intent of the (SUNY 2020) award was to build a facility that could solve problems faced by industry,” explained David Gottfried, CACT Deputy Director. He added, “The Alfred University CACT will recruit ceramics-based enterprises to the CREATE Center to take advantage of its unique tools and processes.”

The formation of new businesses, including student-led firms, is a significant objective of the CREATE Center. New companies which arise from research at the center may initially be housed in the IncubatorWorks facility on Main Street in Alfred before relocating to other regional brick-and-mortar sites. Simmins said ideally, businesses leaving IncubatorWorks would set up shop at the nearby Sugar Hill Development Corp. industrial park in the town of Alfred.

The CREATE Center will also provide training tools needed by ceramics-based businesses.  “The center will provide training not only to engineers, but also technicians to support growth in the ceramic industry,” Simmins said.

He noted that technical training will be provided at the CREATE Center and also at regional community colleges, in partnership with Alfred University. Those technicians could work at IncubatorWorks-based startups, graduates programs, or at any number of ceramics firms located across New York State.

“We are seeking to provide the necessary tools and incentives for ceramics businesses to grow locally,” Simmins noted. “They would have immediate access to the CREATE Center’s facilities and research capabilities, as well as access to Alfred University’s full range of technical knowhow in ceramics. We would love to see Sugar Hill filled with these types of businesses, in addition to growing the ceramics industry statewide.”