Pittsburgh International Airport is betting big that it can develop a hub for additive manufacturing/3-D printing in Pittsburgh by assembling the entire supply chain in one place. It’s called Neighborhood 91, and the project recently landed Wabtec, the Pittsburgh-based Fortune 500 railroad technology firm.

Additive manufacturing uses computer-aided design technology to deposit and shape materials precisely, using layer upon layer of metallic powder (hence, the term additive). Printing parts on demand can yield a lot of efficiencies, speed up production and keep costs low. It also enables quick shifts in production from one part to another.

The Buncher Company is constructing a 45,000-square-foot building that will house Wabtec, where the firm will use the latest 3-D printing technology to make lightweight parts for the railroad industry. The company is also erecting a 3,000-square-foot building for powder storage, a crucial material for additive manufacturing.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority recently received a $1 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to help set up Neighborhood 91 as a global center for additive manufacturing. The airport has stated that the hub could eventually support 1,000 jobs.

We asked David Storer, director of business development for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, about the project and where it’s headed.

Why is it called Neighborhood 91?

Pittsburgh has 90 distinct neighborhoods. The 91st will be a game-changer for the additive manufacturing industry. The campus will thrive off the neighborhood concept of shared structural resources. In the case of Neighborhood 91, neighbors will become customers and drive innovation to advance additive manufacturing.

Why did the Airport want to get into additive manufacturing?

Part of the mission of the airport is to advance the region’s role as a world leader. Our aim is to maximize the assets of the airport for the benefit of the region and that includes land development surrounding the terminal. Neighborhood 91 is a regional initiative that the airport supports as the strategic landlord. The region has a storied history in manufacturing and metals combined with the development of artificial intelligence and robotics, which is the future of the industry. All of that makes Pittsburgh the ideal location to create an AM cluster.

What are the elements that the airport can supply that will make this hub work?

Neighborhood 91 is designed for industry leaders like Wabtec to advance the application of additive technologies for their customers. By condensing the supply chain, this campus will accelerate the adoption of additive in the manufacturing space. As the strategic landlord, the land is adjacent to the runways offering ideal transportation access. The airport is also initiating unique infrastructure elements such as a microgrid that will lower energy costs and shared powder storage facilities.

(PIT plans to entirely power itself with the airport’s own natural gas wells and a solar array.)

Rendering of the Wabtec facility at Neighborhood 91 courtesy of The Buncher Company.

Why is it a big deal to land Wabtec?

This is a huge win for the region. Together, we’re seizing on an opportunity for our region that will create jobs and position our region for the future. The ability to make Pittsburgh a world leader in additive manufacturing is right in front of us. Wabtec is a global, Fortune 500 Company that could have put its production anywhere in the world but chose Neighborhood 91. Having a global conglomerate like Wabtec be the first to produce parts on the campus shows other companies the value it provides.

Is anybody else doing this?

Neighborhood 91 is the first development in the world to both condense and connect all components of the additive manufacturing and 3D printing supply chain into one powerful production ecosystem. We are the first campus focused on additive manufacturing production. There are several AM campuses but the others are focused on research and development.

Where do you see Neighborhood 91 in 5 years?   
In five years we see a fully thriving campus that has attracted both U.S. and international companies producing thousands of parts being shipped to users all over the world.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.