Norsk Titanium in NY
Trans-Atlantic partnership makes quality aerospace parts using additive technology
Thor A. Larsen
If you should visit Plattsburgh, N.Y., in the northern part of the state, you will see a number of high-tech buildings, including a building occupied by Norsk Titanium (www.norsktitanium.com) that contains a number of Norsk Titanium’s developed state-of-art 3-D manufacturing units, “proprietary plasma arc Direct Metal Deposition (DMD) technology.” These machines deposit the metal in precise computer control in three dimensions. The employees are all Norsk Titanium employees, some from nearby Clarkson University, and a few from Norway. The main products are precision, high-quality titanium parts for the aerospace industry.
How in the world did this arrangement come about? Norsk Titanium was formed by two scientists/entrepreneurs in 2007 in Hønefoss, Norway. They managed to attract funding from several high-tech companies and created a development team. The team developed very high purity titanium, which they used to form titanium wires.
Titanium is available around the world and exists in compounds such as rutile and ilmenite. Metal features include low density, high strength, and resistance to corrosion, all features that make the metal attractive for the aerospace industry.
Along with realizing very pure titanium, the Norsk Titanium team developed titsfirst 3-D titanium deposition tool prototype in 2008. The machines deposited very thin layers of pure titanium in an inert argon environment, creating very pure parts. Every second year, a new version of the DMD was realized and in 2013, the titanium parts for the aerospace industry met their requirements.
In 2015, after eight years of development, Norsk Titanium built a production version of its DMD machines or Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) machines that could make 11 to 20 metric tons of aerospace-grade parts in a year. These machines were called MERKLE IV. In the same year, Norsk Titanium recognized that they needed to establish a presence in the United States, tapping U.S. skills and resources. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York offered to provide $125 million for facilities so that Norsk Titanium would set up its U.S. development and manufacturing center in Plattsburgh. An agreement was finalized. Nearby Clarkson University would develop workforce training. The main campus of State University of New York Polytechnic Institute in Albany, an international center for collaborative university-industry research in nanotech technology and related sciences, would be accessible for additional research in Norsk Titanium science needs.
New York State purchased 20 of the MERKLE IV machines, which were shipped to the Plattsburg facility in 2017. At the end of 2017, the plant and equipment were demonstrated to be fully operational. This facility is the first industrial-scale additive manufacturing plant in the world! Using the MERKLE machines, parts as large as 100 pounds can be built. These very pure, defect-free titanium structures offer reliability and a relatively low cost of manufacture compared to prior techniques. And since the process is additive, the process saves 25 to 50 percent of the raw titanium when compared to prior techniques. In mid-2018, the Plattsburgh site proved to be a qualified supplier of parts for Spirit Aerospace and Boeing. When fully staffed, the site may have up to 400 people. It is truly a success story of a partnership between New York State and Norway’s Norsk Titanium.
Born in Stavanger, Thor A. Larsen immigrated to New York City with his parents in 1948. Now retired from a 40-year career as physicist and engineer, Thor draws and paints, and writes travel and arts articles for a local publication. He’s been married to Arlene for 49 years, and they have two adult children and three grandsons.
This article originally appeared in the February 22, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.