Alcoa announces $60 million 3D manufacturing expansion at western Pennsylvania tech center

Alcoa is spending $60 million to expand its three-dimensional manufacturing capabilities at a technical center in the Pittsburgh suburbs.

Alcoa announced the expansion at its Upper Burrell Township center on Thursday, along with the company's new Ampliforge process, which uses 3-D printers to design and produce parts, which are then finished using traditional processes such as forging.

"Alcoa is investing in the next generation of 3D printing for aerospace and beyond," said Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa's chairman and chief executive officer.

Three-dimensional printing is part of the process known as additive manufacturing, in which three-dimensional products are designed on a computer then printed out of layered materials — for example, metals and plastics — into one product. The process is especially important in aerospace and transportation products, because complicated shapes and designs can be produced in one step and marketed more quickly.

The products made at the technology center about 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh won't be sold to customers, but the technology developed there will shape 3D processes used in other Alcoa plants. The researchers will be trying to develop metallic powders that are used in the 3D process, with an eye toward reducing the cost and time it takes to make 3D products.

Alcoa has moved to diversify its business from aluminum mining and production to manufacturing lighter-weight metal and alloy parts and products used in vehicles, airplanes and space vehicles.

Alcoa recently bought RTI International Metals in Moon Township, another Pittsburgh suburb, for $1.5 billion. That acquisition gave Alcoa the ability to print 3D products out of titanium and other specialty materials.

Alcoa said the tech center expansion will add about 100 jobs, including materials specialists, design experts and technologists who will run and inspect the new processes.

Alcoa laid off about 50 of the technical center's 600 employees in March.

The expansion is scheduled to be complete early next year, with the new jobs added by 2017.

State, county and local taxing bodies have agreed to $10 million in aid and tax abatements for the project.