Additive manufacturing in the Pittsburgh region got a boost last week when Fortune 500 company Wabtec cut the ribbon on a new production facility just beyond the runways at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Wabtec’s new 11,000-square-foot facility will produce state-of-the-art, large-scale, lightweight parts for its rail industry business. The company is the first to open its doors at Neighborhood 91, the additive manufacturing (AM) campus at PIT.
The campus is the first in the world to condense and connect all components of the AM supply chain into one production ecosystem. Other companies already signed on include global aluminum supplier Rusal America and Arencibia, a supplier of noble gases such as new and recycled argon, a key element in AM.
“Advances in additive technology are changing the way we design and build the next generation of business-critical, sustainable products for our customers,” said Eric Gebhardt, Wabtec’s chief technology officer. “Our Neighborhood 91 facility and the other additive labs in Western Pennsylvania will accelerate new innovations that shrink lead times, reduce cost and increase reliability.”
Wabtec’s site at Neighborhood 91 features an SLM 800 3D printer, one of just four of its size in the U.S. Production will include metal aluminum transit components like brake parts and heat sinks for freight locomotives, among many other rail applications. Applying AM technology to some of these applications will reduce lead times by up to 80 percent, company officials said.
The new facility is part of Wabtec’s initiative to use AM to provide parts faster, with a simplified supply chain using advanced features that improve the application, all at a competitive price point. The company plans to use additive technologies to produce over 25,000 parts by 2025 in support of the internal supply chain.
“To have a hometown Fortune 500 company like Wabtec continue to expand here in additive manufacturing is a win for the airport and our region,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
The Neighborhood 91 concept is based on co-located capital resources at the core of the development. It will house a complete end-to-end additive supply chain ranging from the powders to production, testing, analysis and delivery. Neighborhood 91 tenants gain efficiencies in production, cost savings from on-demand printing, and access to a major international airport.
“Manufacturing isn’t just part of Western Pennsylvania’s past; it is an important part of our future,” said U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D), whose 17th District includes PIT. “Wabtec’s investment in Neighborhood 91 will create good jobs and anchor the future of high-tech manufacturing in our region in the airport corridor.”
With several other companies in various stages of agreement on 45,000 square feet of production space, Neighborhood 91 has already assembled the AM supply chain—powder storage, post-production, and more—in the middle of a pandemic, no less.
“Our region continues to evolve as the location on the East Coast for companies that embrace technology and play in the world stage,” state Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37), whose district covers PIT, said. “The innovative approach of Neighborhood 91 that centralizes the components of additive manufacturing allows industry leaders like Wabtec to advance their business model and continue to call western Pennsylvania home.
“In addition to the access to global markets, this employer knows that the highly qualified and motivated workforce is embracing the future. It’s a win-win for our communities.”
Wabtec officials gave tours of the building as the printer whirred in the background, printing train parts. Storied inventor George Westinghouse assembled his revolutionary air brakes by hand in 1869, using traditional lathes and presses at a small factory in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
Fittingly, more than 150 years later, the company that carries on his legacy has become a foundational part of an industrial development devoted to cutting-edge manufacturing processes—with rail transportation at the heart.
State Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R-44), whose district includes the airport, congratulated Wabtec and thanked them for being the first company to move into Neighborhood 91.
“It is never easy being first. But as was once said, ‘The footsteps of a pioneer become ultimately the highway of a nation,’” Gaydos said. “With Wabtec’s participation, Neighborhood 91 is destined to be an expressway for Pennsylvania’s new manufacturing sector.”
Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, noted that Pittsburgh already has all the parts of the AM supply chain within a two-hour drive, coupled with world-leading universities in the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University powering the research and development and workforce of the AM future.
“Part of the vision for Neighborhood 91 is to highlight the assets of the region right at the airport so we can build on community strengths,” Cassotis said. “For Wabtec, a global manufacturing leader, to choose Neighborhood 91 for its advanced manufacturing is a sign that our region has all it needs to be a leader in this space.”