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Somerset Community College awarded USDA Rural Development grant to bring 3D printing skills to Refuge for Women and Red Bird Mission

Somerset Community College awarded USDA Rural Development grant to bring 3D printing skills to Refuge for Women and Red Bird Mission


[Somerset, Kentucky, February 10th, 2022

The Additive Manufacturing Center at Somerset Community College is pleased to announce a partnership with the USDA Rural Development program to bring the power of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, to a completely new form of Kentucky small business, businesses that specifically support and employ individuals that have been victims of human trafficking and those from impoverished regions.


This initiative, known as Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing, will be providing 3D printing equipment, training, and support to organizations such as Refuge for Women and Red Bird Mission.  Both organizations focus on supporting those in need in Kentucky, especially in rural regions. 

 Located in the eastern woodlands of Kentucky, Red Bird Mission is an organization that has been providing ministries and aid in the Appalachian Mountain region since 1921. Supporting a region that has some of the highest poverty rates in the country, Red Bird Mission helps to meet needs in education, health & wellness, economic opportunities, and housing improvements. The Craft Marketing Program sponsored by Red Bird Mission provides an avenue for local artisans to market their goods locally and throughout the US. The Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing project will apply additive manufacturing techniques towards enhancing the Craft Marketing Program and help to increase the artisan product line as well as introduce new concepts to the market such as “Smart Art” – artisan products that are digitally active.  

 Refuge for Women is a nonprofit with ten sites across the USA, including several in Kentucky, which supports women that come from some of the most severe conditions imaginable. Mostly within the age range of 18 to 35, the women of Refuge for Women have been rescued from the continental, human trafficking/sex trade industries. Often times possessing no more than the clothing on their backs, those rescued by Refuge for Women begin a journey of restoration, education, and healing. To support the development of employable skills and the Refuge for Women program, the women will work to manufacture and sell goods for the Survivor Made product line. The Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing project will provide 3D printing equipment, training, and marketing consultation services to the women of Refuge for Women to not only enhance their manufacturing capabilities, but also provide the women with a cutting-edge manufacturing skillset in additive and parametric modeling. 

The women will be trained in parametric modeling using Autodesk Fusion 360, a powerful design-and-make tool that combines computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), computer aided engineering (CAE), and printed circuit board (PCB) design on one platform. By learning Fusion 360, the women will take a big step toward upskilling and digitizing their skillsets, creating opportunity for a future career in advanced manufacturing. Autodesk has been a stalwart supporter of SCC’s work and the additive manufacturing movement for many years, including giving free access to its products and services to eligible students and educators through its educational plan. 

 “We often see a great deal of news about 3D printing being used by the big industries, but it is important for us not to forget that this is also a technology for everyone, and from every walk of life,” says Eric Wooldridge, Director of the Additive Manufacturing Center and the leader for the project. “Sure, it certainly has the power to transform rockets and cars, but it also has the power to transform the life of a single, unique individual. To give someone that literally has nothing, not just a chance at a brand new career, but an opportunity to seize an idea or a dream and make it into a reality. That is the type of work that brings real meaning to what we do.” 

Wooldridge also points out that the long view of economic growth is through the empowerment of a single individual.  “This often results in that individual generating a new idea, leading to a new export, and ultimately creating a small, positive economic impact for a region. But as we all know, enough small impacts added together equal something big.”  

 The year-long Elevate Kentucky through Additive Manufacturing training project is getting underway this February with the goal of seeing new 3D printed solutions and products proposed by the participants as early as June. Wooldridge hopes that from the potential impact and lessons learned from this project, he can present this concept to larger Non-governmental Organizations and reach more individuals within rehabilitation programs and opportunity areas across the nation. But Wooldridge and his team are adamant to point out that without funding partners like USDA that are truly investing in grass roots level changes and willing to try something new, opportunities like this would remain forever unrealized. 

“We are so grateful to the USDA Rural Development Program for funding this project.” says Heather Beebe, a SCC Additive Manufacturing Center team member that will be assisting the in the training of the project’s participants. “This small project could be the initial push that creates an enormous social and economic movement.”

For more information on this project and other additive manufacturing news, please visit our sites and social media platforms. 

Refuge for Women

Red Bird Mission

Somerset Community College Additive Manufacturing Center    (The Additive Guru)

Autodesk, the Autodesk logo and Autodesk Fusion 360 are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product and services offerings, and specifications and pricing at any time without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document.

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