AUBURN, AL – NOVEMBER 20, 2016: Professory Tony Overfelt (center) watches masters candidate Conyers Coupland, 23, build an Auburn University logo out of solid metal using a process called Wir3D, an additive manufacturing technique comparable to MIG welding that continuously melts metal wire in an electric arc. “It’s essentially like feeding a wire into a lightweight bolt,” Coupland said. The head that continuously feeds the wire is animated by a computer, on which the design is loaded. Coupland is pursuing a masters degree in mechanical engineering under Dr. Lewis Payton, who started Auburn’s Design and Manufacturing Laboratory in 2007.
In much of the United States, global trade and technological innovation has failed to produce the prosperity hoped for by political and business leaders. Yet despite formidable economic challenges, some localities are flourishing. In Lee County, Ala., unemployment is below the national average despite the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, and the key to the county’s resilience may be Auburn University, which provided a steady source of employment during recessions and helped draw new businesses to replace those that fled. CREDIT: Bob Miller for The Wall Street Journal