Norwegian titanium manufacturer eyes Plattsburgh

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A Norwegian technology firm is poised to open its first North American manufacturing facility at a site in Plattsburgh, sources say.

Reuters, citing unnamed sources, has reported New York state has entered into a public/private partnership with Oslo-based Norsk Titanium AS to build a 200,000-square-foot plant for industrial scale 3D printing of titanium components.

The state would reportedly invest $125 million to build the plant, which it would own, with operation by the Norwegian firm.

The program that oversees the partnership would reportedly be managed by the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

Sources have told the Press-Republican the company is looking at aviation-related property, which narrows the choices to Plattsburgh International Airport or the former Clinton County Airport.

Both properties are owned by Clinton County and located in the Town of Plattsburgh.

Reuters reported a groundbreaking is expected later this year, and the plant would be in operation by the end of 2016.

No plans have been approved by the Town Planning Department.

According to the company website, Norsk Titanium's markets include the aerospace, defense, energy, automotive and maritime sectors.

That fits with the North Country's burgeoning emergence as a center for the manufacture of transportation equipment, as evidenced by the recent launch of the North American Center of Excellence for Transportation Equipment.

Funding for that Center of Excellence has been included in the North Country Regional Economic Development Council's submittals for the fifth round of council funding and for the separate Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

The latter application included $3 million a year for five years to be invested through the center to address workforce and training needs for companies in the transportation equipment cluster.

Norsk employs proprietary plasma arc Direct Metal Deposition technology, described on the firm's website as "the ultimate in 3D additive printing."

The process calls for titanium wire to be melted in a cloud of argon gas and precisely and rapidly built up in layers to a near-net-shape (up to 80 percent complete) that requires very little finish machining.

Norsk states production costs are 50 to 75 percent less than traditional forging and billet manufacturing techniques due to significantly less waste and machining energy.

It states the time to bring a component to market is also reduced by 75 percent.

Norsk Titanium was founded in 2004 and operates as a subsidiary of Scatec AS.

Wednesday, the firm announced that it had appointed former Lockheed president and chief operating officer Christopher Kubasik as chairman of the Norsk Titanium Board of Directors, effective in January 2016.

Norsk Titanium Board Executive Chairman John Andersen said Kubasik's appointment is part of the firm's "broader transition to the United States."

Earlier this year, Norsk announced Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals, which supplies titanium and other specialty metal products and services, had become a strategic investor and minority partner. 

A press release at that time stated Norsk had already achieved technology readiness level six, which shows its ability to meet requirements for aerospace and defense industry materials. 

Norsk Titanium Chief Executive Warren Boley told Reuters in July they expect to build large-scale components for commercial aircraft, although he declined to provide a location for the plant.

He said launch orders were expected by the first quarter of 2016.

Requests for comment on Wednesday from Norsk Titanium, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office, Empire State Development and SUNY Polytechnic elicited no response.