Ten years after the Delphi auto parts plant in Limestone County shut down, Carpenter Technology has opened its newest advanced additive manufacturing facility and Emerging Technology Center in one of the formerly vacant buildings.
The ETC is a “critical component” in the Philadelphia-based company’s growth and long-term business strategy of being a leader in additive manufacturing, said Tony Thene, the company’s president and CEO. He spoke Wednesday before a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility on Thomas Hammons Road.
Although the company is 130 years old, “we are certainly a company of the future,” Thene said. “At this location, we have the full production cycle — from powder to part — under one roof (with a) streamlined workflow. We believe this is the only place in the world you’ll find that.”
The ETC is equipped to convert raw materials, like nickel, aluminum, titanium, iron and cobalt, into fine metal powder, which is screened and separated by size. Using computer-aided design (CAD) models, metal additive manufacturing — also referred to as industrial 3D printing technology — builds 3D metal parts one layer at a time as a high-power laser melts the powder.
Carpenter Technology has committed to investing $52 million at the center and creating 60 jobs in the next five years, Thene said. That's in addition to 300 employees already working at Carpenter's campus, he said.
The ETC now has 12 employees, a mix of quality and maintenance personnel, machinists, machine operators, leadership and engineers, according to director of internal communications Heather Beardsley.
The facility is an “important step in our additive manufacturing journey,” said Ben Ferrar, the vice president and general manager of Carpenter Additive, a business unit launched to serve the growing additive manufacturing market.
He noted that SmarTech, which provides market research and industry analysis in the 3D printing/additive manufacturing sector, projects the global metal additive manufacturing components market will reach $228 billion in the next 10 years.
The company is leveraging its 130 years of materials expertise to position itself to be “an irreplaceable partner” for its customers, Ferrar said.
The 500,000-square-foot center ETC is housed in what was Delphi's Building No. 23 on the northern end of the former Delphi campus.
David Graf, Carpenter's chief technology officer, said about 20% of the space is now being used.
“We’ve got a lot of room for expansion and growth,” he said.
To date, Carpenter has invested more than $600 million in its Limestone County operations.
Ground was broken in 2012 on the company's nearby 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which started operations in 2014. It produces high-end specialty alloy products, primarily for the aerospace and energy markets.
Beardsley said earlier this year that Carpenter also purchased the former Delphi Building No. 22, which is not in use but is available for expansion.
“We will use (the ETC) as a base to launch future investments as we expand our soft magnetics technology platform, scale up additional powder operations and demonstrate a number of next-generation materials we have under development today,” Thene said in a statement.