America Makes

The Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus: Condensing and connecting the Additive Manufacturing supply chain

While the additive manufacturing (AM) industry holds great promise, there are certain areas holding us back from realizing our true potential. Chief among them is the scale required to manufacture parts and products profitably.

Take Pittsburgh for example. Within a two-hour driving radius of Pittsburgh we have a robust additive manufacturing supply chain —from powders and printers to post-production finishers and testing facilities; but even this condensed AM cell is nebulous at best. Most areas of the AM world—domestically and internationally—don’t even have the luxury of that proximity.

A recent economic study shows by condensing and connecting the various components of AM, work in progress (WIP) time is reduced from an average of 63 days—under optimal conditions—to 13 days; reducing lost time-to-market and transportation costs, among others, and savings for customers in the reduction of unused inventory. This confirms that if we condense and connect the supply chain to realize efficiencies, cost savings and margins, we will realize the full potential of industry!

The solution to the AM supply chain challenge: The Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus.

This “Neighborhood” concept is for a production campus built on the example of the neighborhoods where we live; where borrowing a tool or helping one another with a task is commonplace. The Innovation Production Campus will contain all the elements of the AM supply chain in one concentrated place.

This “Neighborhood” concept is for a production campus built on the example of the neighborhoods where we live; where borrowing a tool or helping one another with a task is commonplace. The Innovation Production Campus will contain all the elements of the AM supply chain in one concentrated place.

Facilitating this example is the Campus’s anchor tenant providing Argon, among other noble gases; and having also invented a method to recycle 95% of the gas. Other neighbors will include an onsite communal supply of powder, a proposition too expensive for most of us in the AM industry to accomplish on our own.

Powering the neighborhood is a micro grid fueled by natural gas drilled for and processed right on the property, providing inexpensive energy and resiliency to all the “neighbors.” Pittsburgh International Airport is one of only three airports in the United States that actively drills for natural gas; located atop the Marcellus Shale, the second most abundant resource of natural gas in the U.S. Not only that but the Marcellus sits atop the Utica Shale, predicted to be an even bigger, richer natural gas reserve.

An added benefit of being located on airport property—air service. Whether it’s people or products—the latter being serviced through Qatar Airways world-wide all-cargo service as well as transatlantic flights from London and other underbelly cargo options from PITs numerous domestic carriers—PIT’s passenger and cargo flights can get you, your people and your products anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less.

Pittsburgh is producing world-class workers ready to take their place in the AM industry.

Perhaps more important than the neighborhood concept, the link to the airport, or the energy savings and resiliency, is the workforce development component. Pittsburgh is producing world-class workers ready to take their place in the advanced manufacturing industry. The University of Pittsburgh has a complete end-to-end workforce development strategy to educate and train the “new collar” workforce in the operation and maintenance of the AM industry’s powerful and complex tools. A stone’s throw away, Robert Morris University has developed programs to train engineers and technicians for this growing industry. In addition, just 19 miles down the road from our campus, research and development work in robotics and artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University will also impact and enhance the AM manufacturing supply chain.

Finally, let’s not forget that two of the nation’s premier Advanced Manufacturing institutes, America Makes (The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute), and ARM (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) are less than an hour’s drive from our campus. As you can see, the Pittsburgh Airport Innovation Campus will have the people, the parts/products producers, the Argon gas supply and powder storage, the low cost energy, and the location to help the additive manufacturing industry leap-frog into mass production and profitability.

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD!