Bridges represent connections to people, places and ideas. In the technology field, we talk about building a bridge over the ‘valley of death’. This is the stage in a technology’s development when both technical and business requirements are very high as it transitions from research to production; the valley is riddled with the hopes and dreams of technologies that didn’t quite make it.
In Clayton Christensen’s bestselling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, he describes principles that stifle innovation or the progress of innovation . Principle five states that, “Technology supply may not equal market demand”. Disruptive technologies like AM, he says, can initially only be used in small markets, not in the mainstream. They are disruptive because “they subsequently can become fully performance competitive within the mainstream market against established products.” AM requires help with the cost barriers to help companies make use of it outside of the niche markets.
For decades, Additive Manufacturing has captured the hearts and minds of engineers, designers and everyday makers because it represents a transition from the centuries-old legacy methods of carving objects from rock and metal, to adding material layer by layer. Slowly but steadily, the advanced manufacturing processes that fall under the umbrella of AM have found their way over the valley of death to a home in production operations, buying their way in via cost reductions, schedule savings, safety enhancements and performance or functionality improvements. The biggest leaps are seen when AM enables systems that are impossible with conventional manufacturing. AM parts and systems are now flying, driving, orbiting, drilling, hurtling through space towards Mars and ‘living’ in people.
These successes are the culmination of hard-fought battles, with AM’s current adopters having conquered numerous hurdles, including an immature, fragmented and expensive supply chain. To simplify and accelerate adoption, industry needs to approach AM production in a new way. This means creating connections, collaborating, placing the right players in the right roles and building bridges to further the large-scale adoption of AM.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, there is no shortage of bridges. In fact, ‘The City of Bridges’ boasts 446 of the structures, which act as connectors across the city. Along with its physical bridges, the Pittsburgh region is a connector for advanced manufacturing globally, making it a natural home for Neighborhood 91.
Solving an AM problem
Advanced technologies, like AM, are disruptive and create an opportunity to do business in a new way. Using AM, new business concepts have emerged as to what product is being sold, how it is sold and the processes used to create it. It follows logically that the supply chain that produces that product could also benefit from some serious innovation. The obstacles faced by players in the current AM supply chain are numerous, ranging from people to business issues:
A shortage of skilled workers
A new set of skills is needed to compete in advanced manufacturing. Only a few AM training programmes exist and the demand for skilled workers exceeds the supply. As a point of reference, Alexander Daniels Global, a leading AM recruiting firm, stated in its 3D Printing Talent Market Whitepaper, “The AM industry has an unemployment rate very close to zero” . This creates a challenge for a company, which needs people to run the business.
Dispersed supply chain
Nearly all parts utilising AM also require other manufacturing capabilities for post-processing, such as machining and heat treatment, and for testing and inspection. The current AM production supply chain is fragmented, adding transport distance and time to the workflow, which results in increased costs.
High operating costs
AM operations are capital intensive, requiring back-up power and specialised powder storage facilities, to name a couple. Recurring costs are also significant in consumables like powder, argon gas and electricity. Additionally, many companies spread their skillsets thinly across a broad range of manufacturing processes in an attempt to control schedule and cost. This approach can also increase overheads if machine utilisation is not high for all equipment.
Inconsistent product demand
Fluctuating order volumes and a lack of long-term contracts create an inconsistent product demand, which can lead to equipment underutilisation. This also means that, when demand does come, the supply chain may not have the surge capacity to keep up. Another possible consequence of inconsistent demand is an increase in work in progress (WIP) and inventory, which represent money invested without any return.
Amid the current global pandemic, supply chain struggles are amplified. A survey run by The Barnes Global Advisors in mid-summer 2020 asked the question, “Do you see the pandemic truly causing a rethinking of the supply chain?” to which 50% of respondents replied “Yes”. The top three reasons given for this answer were:
- Re-shoring or onshoring increases in importance
- Distributed / localised manufacturing increases in importance
- Agility increases in importance
This gives us indications as to the additional pain points companies are enduring due to global supply chain disruptions related to the pandemic.
Neighborhood 91: A production campus offers the solution
Neighborhood 91 is believed to be the world’s first end-to-end AM production campus and occupies 195 of the 8,800 acres owned by Pittsburgh International Airport (Fig. 2). Its inception was a collaboration between by the Allegheny County Airport Authority and the University of Pittsburgh, with local government having been supportive from the County Executive to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, providing funding to enable construction of the site.
The Neighborhood 91 Mission Statement is to condense and connect all components of the Additive Manufacturing supply chain into one powerful production ecosystem. A centralised campus with capabilities starting with material production and spanning across Additive Manufacturing, machining, heating treating, post-processing and inspection intends to reduce manufacturing barriers and accelerate adoption. The campus will offer:
- Recycling of argon, helium and other noble gases, which are essential elements of Additive Manufacturing and can account for up to 60% of the total cost
- Campus microgrid providing clean, resilient energy, eliminating the need for uninterruptable power supply (UPS) or generators
- Powder, parts, post-production, testing and analysis
- Common powder storage facilities
- Efficiencies in production/post-production and delivery
- Tenants’ cost savings from AM enabling a lean production cycle
- Reduced transportation costs
- Transportation logistics including airport, interstate and rail access
Neighborhood 91 enables a simplified supply chain and provides relief to manufacturers’ key pain points across the industrial value chain (Fig. 3). The impacts waterfall based on the efficiencies created on campus:
Production timelines, work in progress and inventory will be reduced with the elimination of geographical distance. When problems do arise, they can be resolved faster by simply walking next door.
Persistent production costs will be minimised with attractive rent, low energy rates due to the microgrid and low gas costs due to argon recycling. Capital expenditures will be minimised for tenants, as well as transportation costs.
The availability of diverse services on campus encourages each company to specialise while relying on neighbours to deliver the rest.
Develop a workforce
Workforce development needs will be met with academic and industry partners in the region.
Neighborhood 91 will enable multi-company innovation and enable the collective to pursue state and federal funding.
The efficiency of agglomeration
Through an economist’s lens, Neighborhood 91 is an agglomeration: a collection of firms from a given industry. At its core, agglomeration’s underlying theory is that businesses and resources can take advantage of efficiencies by being located close to one another, enabling specialisation, workforce development and knowledge generation. The advanced manufacturing sector is differentiated from traditional manufacturing in that it requires innovative thinking to exist.
History also shows that innovative thinking attracts more innovative thinking with ‘innovation sectors’ clustering and growing due to knowledge-based economies. Geographic proximity has profitability and productivity benefits built on the key advantages of agglomeration: input sharing, knowledge spillovers and labour pooling. In his book The New Geography of Jobs, Enrico Moretti explained, “… in the innovation economy, a company’s success depends on more than just the quality of its workers – it also depends on the entire ecosystem that surrounds it. Cities are not just a collection of individuals but complex, interrelated environments that foster the generation of new ideas and new ways of doing business. For example, being around smart people makes us smarter and more innovative” .
The push for specialisation
Looking at the supply chain for AM, a series of specialised processes are involved, especially in the supply of metals. While it is logical to want control over the series of processes, the question remains as to whether the increase in overhead can be sustained. Effectively, parts manufacturers need to differentiate and be extremely competitive and, often, being competitive comes down to machine utilisation. We have all watched the seesaw supply chain strategies of the giant Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in different industries as they go through a vertical integration phase followed by a major outsourcing campaign five years later. The argument for vertical integration is control over schedule and intellectual property, while the counter argument for outsourcing is competitive pricing and specialisation.
The strategy adopted by small- to medium-size businesses often lands somewhere in between and we have seen a few Additive Manufacturing groups stumble when trying to strike the right balance. When crafting the strategy for Neighborhood 91, we first asked: What problems need to be solved to encourage further utilisation of AM and the AM supply chain? Of those problems, which can Neighborhood 91 affect? To be successful in AM you must understand or appreciate the entire supply chain. Akin to how we approach Design for AM, we are only as strong as our weakest link. We first sought answers to questions such as:
- As manufacturing processes become more diverse, does it make sense for businesses to own all the processes themselves?
- Is it possible for a company to sufficiently master all the processes and maintain both the capital investment and skillsets to maximise the assets?
- Can I utilise all my equipment effectively and efficiently, or am I best partnering for specialised services?
- How can I lower my cost of operations without reducing customer service and quality?
An article published in Forbes  stated five reasons for specialisation:
- Better value proposition
- Smaller learning curve
- Higher perception of authority
- Higher conversions
- Better networking
Neighborhood 91’s clustering of advanced manufacturing providers creates an environment that encourages and enables specialisation and it addresses many of the issues that companies are facing today. A specialised business at Neighborhood 91 can keep operating costs down and maximise agility by purchasing only required assets, hiring the right skillsets, using the localised supply chain and, hopefully, filling its assets.
Building a workforce – labour pooling
A company can buy a newer, faster machine and the latest software, but it is not as easy to acquire the skills to use them. Without skilled people, those tools are useless. Through academic and training partners, the Neighborhood 91 innovation ecosystem will develop a pool of trained workers for the greater Pittsburgh region.
Investment that keeps paying off – knowledge spillover
Around the world, we see areas of knowledge pooling in regional clusters like Silicon Valley where success begets success. Studies also show that research and development and workforce development investments have a spillover benefit to other actors across the industrial spectrum . Therefore, people and companies in the greater Pittsburgh region, other than those carrying out the work, can also enjoy higher productivity and revenues because of the Neighborhood 91 investments. These spillovers relate to various types of knowledge transfer.
Advanced manufacturing in the Pittsburgh region
A large portion of the AM supply chain exists within a four-hour radius of Pittsburgh. Consolidating and connecting this supply into a 195-acre campus is the goal behind Neighborhood 91. Around the world, people understand this choice: the Pittsburgh region is known for manufacturing, materials, robotics, big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, all of which are the necessary ingredients for a robust advanced manufacturing future. Pittsburgh is also known for its vibrant growth, excellent workforce and above average advanced degrees per capita.
Within this comfortable driving distance of Pittsburgh, three Manufacturing USA Institutes can be found, including America Makes, Youngstown, Ohio, responsible for Additive Manufacturing. The first Manufacturing USA institute, America Makes serves as the national accelerator for AM. Established in 2012 and structured as a public-private partnership with member organisations from industry, academia, government, non-government agencies and workforce and economic development resources, the institute works to innovate and accelerate Additive Manufacturing to increase the USA’s global manufacturing competitiveness.
A wide range of further notable activities exist within the city of Pittsburgh alone:
Hazelwood Green is establishing a new model for economic development in Pittsburgh, which is aligned with community and grounded in the principles of sustainability, equity and inclusive economic opportunity.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative (MFI) is building Pittsburgh into the country’s leading manufacturing hub. MFI, anchored by CMU’s NextManufacturing Center for Additive Manufacturing research and education, Robotics Institute and CyLab Security and Data Privacy Institute, will attract and collaborate with industry as well as public/private and academic partners, with a mission to accelerate the adoption of new technology through interdisciplinary research on materials discovery, Additive Manufacturing, robotics and automation, machine learning/AI, policy, cybersecurity, workforce training and education. MFI manages the approximately 5390 m2 (58,000 ft2) advanced manufacturing facility at Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green, which is also home to the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM).
University of Pittsburgh Center for Advanced Manufacturing
The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (UPCAM) acts as a liaison between The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and Pittsburgh’s manufacturing community. Working in advanced manufacturing, Pitt offers innovations from conventional manufacturing to new and novel manufacturing technologies, leveraging its materials data science, machine learning/AI, cybersecurity and cyber policy for manufacturing as well as workforce development.
Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM)
As one of the Manufacturing USA Institutes, The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute will be the leading catalyst of robotics innovation and expertise. Headquartered in Pittsburgh’s thriving robotics community, ARM is an integral part of Pittsburgh’s strategy to define the future of the global manufacturing economy. ARM has a state-of-the-art headquarters at Mill 19 in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighbourhood; this brand-new development provides space for ARM member collaboration, dedicated classrooms for workforce training and more.
Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow
Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), a Manufacturing USA institute, designs and deploys advanced lightweight metal manufacturing technologies and implements educational programmes to close the gap between research breakthroughs and commercialisation. LIFT is operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense, industry and academia. LIFT’s mission is to advance technology and talent development, driving rapid implementation of smarter manufacturing.
AM requires a supply chain that is integrated, but which is also diverse, automated, generates big data, employs machine learning/AI and is increasingly robotic: it must drive design thinking and materials innovation. What companies need now more than ever is innovation. The Pittsburgh region is punching above its weight in this innovation thrust, in part because it has the right balance of a currently available workforce and the academic network to develop the skills and fill the future talent pipeline to feed the innovation system.
The Class of 2020 at Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Spring Semester class studied various aspects of Neighborhood 91, including an evaluation of the question: How competitive is the metal Additive Manufacturing ecosystem of greater Pittsburgh as compared to other regions? Using America Makes membership data, an assessment of three United States regions showed a significantly higher concentration of metal AM companies in the greater Pittsburgh and Ohio region than that of the Carolinas or Alabama, two other regions advertising AM growth. Fig. 5 shows an output from the CMU study, which indicates that “the Regional Pittsburgh network is the largest network by far, and includes almost half of the nodes in the US. The remainder of the nodes are spread out across other regions in the US.”
In addition, the CMU study found that the Pittsburgh regional internal network is very complex and well connected, whereas the competing regions do not enjoy the same level of complexity and in some cases have a single point of failure, where, if one hub were to fail, the network would dissipate. It is worth noting that the data, which fed the study, was limited to America Makes’ data and excludes the international connectivity that the Pittsburgh region also enjoys and that it is exclusive to metal Additive Manufacturing and does not represent the wider areas of advanced manufacturing, materials production, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics, which are also quite prominent in the region.
Creating value for the manufacturer
The Neighborhood 91 vision complements the region’s assets and inherent workforce. Allegheny County Airport Authority is in the role of strategic landlord and is making investments in the infrastructure to nurture advanced manufacturing in the Pittsburgh region. Companies can choose to rent from a master developer or build their own building on the airport’s property. Arencibia, a supplier of industrial gas solutions focused on cost reductions and supply chain stability, is an anchor service provider for Neighborhood 91, providing gas recycling on-site to reduce the cost of gases for the tenants. The investment in infrastructure enables low-cost gas recycling solutions even for smaller companies, who would not otherwise have access to these capabilities.
The Barnes Global Advisors is leading the strategy development and tenant attraction through its connector role for the campus, linking companies, people, equipment, materials, data, insights and digital solutions, to help steer Neighborhood 91’s vision and bring maximum value to its tenants. The University of Pittsburgh brings world class advanced manufacturing research to complement the ecosystem.
Current status of Neighborhood 91
At the time of writing this article, the first buildings of Neighborhood 91 are under construction. Letters of Intent to occupy have been received for 100% of the first 4,180 m2 (45,000 ft2) building and about half of the second. The strategy to pursue AM parts producers and powder producers has been effective, as those companies then feed the subsequent sub-tier manufacturers. The other would-be ‘neighbours’ activities include heat treatment, testing and inspection, with many ongoing discussions underway.
The move-in date for the first neighbours will be in the second quarter of 2021. The characteristics of the first several companies validate the strategy of leading with parts and powder and represent the skeleton of the supply chain. The current activities of the companies committing range from AM part production to powders, machining, heat treatment and testing and inspection.
As Neighborhood 91 grows, a key part of its strategy is to manage the impact on the current capabilities in the region and how to make good on the adage, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Simultaneous to this connection, effort is maturing the workforce development strategy and activities. Neighborhood 91 is working with the existing universities, trades and public/private entities to ensure that the pipeline of people to power the growth will be there.
Wabtec announced as anchor parts producer
Wabtec Corporation has been announced as the first company to move into Neighborhood 91 and will be using the campus as a production site for its own AM parts. The Neighborhood’s first production AM part is an integrated cooling chassis (Fig. 6), which is used as a dual fuel locomotive engine electronic card cage with integrated forced-air multi-pass cooling; a high-powered cooling system for locomotive electronics.
Wabtec will employ the latest in AM technology to produce state-of-the-art, large-scale, lightweight parts for transit and rail customers to reduce lead times by up to 80%. Wabtec will operate a new SLM®800 Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) AM system. The installation will include the SLM 800 and the automated material handling solution, HUB, making it the first production installation of the SLM 800 with HUB in North America. This large build envelope will enable Wabtec to create large, complex and precise aluminium transit and freight components like brake parts and heat exchangers. The highly automated machine enables Wabtec a path for autonomous, continuous and scalable production of large metal parts.
Speaking on the decision to join Neighborhood 91, Philip Moslener, Executive Director of Engineering at Wabtec Corp, stated, “Additive technology is a key focus area for us that provides new capabilities to drive innovation in areas where traditional manufacturing could not. This agreement continues our investment in resources that enable our engineers to design new and complex products for the industries we serve. As the first development in the world to connect all elements of the Additive Manufacturing supply chain into a single location, Neighborhood 91 is the ideal location to fully realise the potential of this technology.”
Neighborhood 91 adds to Wabtec’s additive facilities in the Pittsburgh region, which include AM labs in Erie and Grove City. Wabtec is now exploring how AM can be integrated into its business to positively impact its products and transform the supply chain. In 2019, Wabtec began its journey by launching twelve parts in production and it is working towards introducing up to 250 unique production components by 2025.
Rusal anchors the powder storage facility
Rusal, the largest producer of low-carbon footprint aluminium in the world, has chosen Neighborhood 91 as a powder storage and distribution site. Of equal importance to Rusal’s mission to develop high-strength, temperature-stable and highly AM-compatible aluminium alloys is a focus on minimising material costs to expand the number and types of AM solution implementations in aerospace, automotive and general industry.
The company does so through intentional alloy design and operational excellence. As it continues a United States expansion, Neighborhood 91 provides a cost-effective solution for powder storage and distribution. Additionally, the campus’s focus on energy efficiency via a micro-grid and gas recycling align with Rusal’s core sustainability objectives. Adam Travis, North American AM Bureau Manager for Rusal Americas, explained, “Neighborhood 91 is an ideal location from which to introduce Rusal’s innovative alloys to the US market. Its co-location with Pittsburgh International Airport provides convenient logistics for meeting our customers’ demands, while its AM and powder focused construction allows us to maintain our competitive cost advantage by utilising their efficient systems for powder storage and distribution.”
Neighborhood 91 is a viable powder production site
At the start of the metal powder bed AM supply chain is powder. In powder production, specifically atomising, argon is one of the top operating expenses. A typical atomised powder will use 3–5 kg of gas for every 1 kg of alloy product. For some AM parts, argon can be used at many steps along the way: powder production, part building, heat treatment and Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP), so its use is pervasive in the value chain. In addition, availability is frequently an issue since argon supplies are tied to demand for other air gases. Both cost and supply issues can be significantly reduced using argon recovery for a range of different system flows and pressures.
Argon recovery technology has been successfully deployed at many large alloy production facilities. These can cover operating conditions with delivery pressures up to 400 bar and flows up to 140 Nm3/min. Typically, these higher capacity conditions are necessary to justify the economics of recycling. However, with Neighborhood 91, a larger portion of the AM supply chain is co-located in a way that allows a central recovery operation to serve all scales of gas users, with inexpensive gas available for all tenants. This creates a true ‘plug-and-play’ market for low-cost inert gases and results in a low carbon footprint. The Neighborhood 91 campus will employ sitewide noble gas recycling, operated by Arencibia, as a utility service to tenants. Joe Arencibia, Arencibia’s President and CEO, commented, “Using economies of scale in a single campus, the script is flipped on gas supply, creating net cost savings of over 50% and a reduction in supply risk by 90%. All tenants gain an intrinsic and integral advantage against global competition.”
Neighborhood 91: Building the bridge
2020 has been an influential year, which has seen many unprepared for the rapid changes it brought. However, in a TBGA survey, most firms interviewed did not change their priorities, but rather doubled down on them. The truly strong companies, with a compelling value proposition and vision, are surviving. Reducing operational costs and a laser-like focus on where a company adds value is a compelling reason for a firm to locate at Neighborhood 91. Whilst partnering with the supply chain to deliver parts faster is not for the meek; when coupled with each firm optimising their utilisation of equipment, the payoff will benefit all. The Neighborhood 91 campus creates an opportunity for manufacturers to maximise their investment and keep a keen focus on the area of advanced manufacturing specialisation required to meet their end goal.
Neighborhood 91 enables powder manufacturers to focus on making powder, the part makers on building parts, machinists on machining and heat treaters on producing optimised microstructures. The tenants of Neighborhood 91 will thrive on the connections (shall we say bridges?) created and the efficiencies realised by the formation of a simplified and optimised production campus.
Laura L Ely & John E Barnes
The Barnes Global Advisors
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Tel: (412) 370-6822
 The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA, USA, 1997)
 3D Printing Talent Market Whitepaper, Alexander Daniels Global [https://www.alexanderdanielsglobal.com/3d-printing-talent-market-whitepaper-2019/]
 The New Geography of Jobs, Enrico Moretti (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA, USA, 2012)
 5 Reasons Modern Businesses Are Turning To Specialization, Larry Alton, in Forbes, December 2016 [https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryalton/2016/12/20/5-reasons-modern-businesses-are-turning-to-specialization/#7b0968fe4a29]
 DTI Economics Paper 5: DTI Strategy, the Analysis (UK Department of Trade and Industry Published Paper, 2003)
Better value proposition
Specialisation can come in a variety of forms: a focus on specific markets, products, or processes. Striking the right balance is key to delivering value for each customer. For example, having a diverse set of processes under one roof might help schedule, but will create extra cost burdens. When each company on the campus can specialise and become more efficient at their operation, the whole supply chain benefits. There is an interdependence, which is healthy, and is the actualisation of the phrase “a rising tide floats all boats.” The collective succeeds when a better product can be offered at a competitive price in a shorter period of time.
Shallow learning curve and workforce
Additive Manufacturing represents a way of manufacturing that is fundamentally different than subtractive; therefore, the skills required to be successful are also different. Additionally, manufacturing best practices are not yet well established across the industry, creating a steeper learning curve. To perform a diversity of processes well, you either need extremely multi-skilled workers, or experts in each of your processes. Specialisation shortens the learning curve and allows for the development of deeper expertise. Additionally, Pittsburgh’s talented workforce puts manufacturers starting point further up the curve enabling earlier profits.
Higher perception of authority
Perception is often times reality. In manufacturing, new processes are initially met with a level of distrust until enough data and applications are available to validate robustness. A “guilty until proven innocent” policy prevails. Therefore, as a production provider, building trust is paramount. AM is also lacking an authority in production. A campus cluster for production will provide an actual authoritative voice built on the voices of many versus a self-declared “expert”.
Knowing where to find AM production makes it easier to connect customers to suppliers and translate leads to sales. Being narrow makes a business easier to find. Not only can the campus deliver parts in a short period of time, it should shorten the customer acquisition time as well. In addition, once people associate precision machining or unique heat treatment with AM, they will know where to get those services.
AM is a global effort, and knowing where to go to get any specialty is important. The AM community is quite small and tight knit meaning both good and bad news travel quickly. If you are a specialised company delivering a superior product, you will naturally benefit from better networking. Growing an entire AM campus has its challenges, if not only because AM is sufficiently diverse in terms of equipment, processes, materials, and services. The Pittsburgh region is well networked in the physical manufacturing arena and competes well in innovation, digital and connectedness globally.