“This is manufacturing in the 21st century,” said Mike Canario, president and CEO of Norsk Titanium as we walked through the company’s Development and Qualifications Center in the Development Corp’s Industrial Park on Martina Circle in Plattsburgh. “We are disrupting the traditional metal manufacturing supply chain.”
Canario, who also serves on Norsk Titanium’s Board of Directors, arrived in Plattsburgh in June 2018 with 30 years of aerospace experience. A graduate of Texas A&M with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, he recently worked for Hexcel Corporation, a company that develops and manufactures structural materials.
Scott McNulty, Director of Operations and Norsk’s Site Manager, joined the Plattsburgh operation shortly before the plant began production. McNulty grew up in Malone and Morrisonville, earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University and an M.S. from the University of Vermont. Most recently he worked at United Technologies Aerospace Systems, a global aerospace and defense company, in its Vergennes, Vermont plant.
“Being a start-up makes what we are doing here very dynamic. Our employees are highly skilled; they’re not swinging hammers,” explained McNulty. “We want to be part of the community and get people to understand what we’re doing.”
Founded In Norway
Norsk Titanium is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified, original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-qualified additive manufacturer. The company uses its patented Rapid Plasma Disposition (RPD) process to produce structural titanium parts.
Dr. Alf Bjørseth, an entrepreneur, industrial developer, researcher, and chemist and Petter Gjørvad, who specialized in titanium as part of his engineering degree and later worked in information technology for Oracle, developed the RPD process and founded Norsk Titanium in Hønefoss, Norway in 2007. The Norwegian plant employs 70 while the Plattsburgh plant currently employs 65. In August of this year Norsk broke ground on an 80,000 square foot production plant at the old Clinton County Airport. Once construction is complete and the Plattsburgh plant is producing at full capacity employment is projected to reach 230.
The Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) Process
In the RPD process, titanium wire is melted in an inert atmosphere of argon gas and precisely and rapidly built up in layers (similar to 3-D printing), at the rate of several kilograms per hour. Unlike the old-fashioned process of pounding and forging, the part can be produced very close to its finished shape. For example, instead of getting a 20-pound block and machining it for several hours to arrive at a three-pound part, RPD uses far less material, significantly reducing waste and cost. This revolutionary “additive” manufacturing technology results in parts with equivalent strength and durability delivered in an on-demand environment with an improved ecological footprint. In addition, reduced machining also leads to a need for less raw material, less tooling, and reduced energy usage — significant cost factors. The end result is quality parts made at a more effective cost whose manufacture is more environmentally friendly.
The MERKE IV is a production machine that uses the RPD process to transform titanium wire into complex components suitable for structural and safety-critical applications. Depending on part size and geometry, each MERKE IV machine can produce 10–20 metric tons annually. The MERKE IV and Norsk Titanium’s RPD technology is transforming the way aerospace companies produce structural components.
Norsk Titanium has also developed machine-to-machine equivalence. As long as they are running the same carefully constructed computer code, all their machines can produce the same exact part every time.
Originally attracted by Empire State Development’s commitment to a $125 million investment in the Plattsburgh facility, Norsk Titanium’s founders were also impressed by Clarkson’s engineering programs as well as the STEM training programs offered at SUNY Plattsburgh and the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM) at Clinton Community College. The combination of the financial incentive and an educated workforce proved irresistible. There was another factor, however, that attracted the Norwegians. “Surprisingly,” said McNulty, “this area looks like Norway, and the weather felt like home. I think that contributed to their decision to open a plant here.”
In March 2017, Norsk Titanium’s Plattsburgh site was added to Boeing’s Qualified Producers List (QPL). Spirit AeroSystems, a top builder of aircraft structures, named Norsk Titanium to its Approved Suppliers list in December of last year.
The Plattsburgh plant currently runs five days a week, 10 hours per day. “We’re looking at expansion into energy markets,” said Canario. “The RPD process provides numerous advantages across a wide breadth of commercial and industrial applications. We’ll ramp up over time as the work comes in.”
McNulty continued, “We are developing a philanthropy team. We’re looking at creating scholarships to engage with the local work- force. We want to be an integral part of the community.”
Norsk Titanium is pioneering a new era of on-demand metal additive manufacturing that will revolutionize industries. The combination of its innovation and technology with Plattsburgh’s skilled workforce promises progress for the company, the individuals who work for it, and its customers.