Digital Foundry at New Kensington
As its physical home takes shape along the Corridor of Innovation, The Digital Foundry at New Kensington is making similar progress in establishing partnerships and programming that will help our region compete in the Industry 4.0 marketplace.
Slated to open in early 2022, the 15,000 SF foundry is poised to become a valuable resource for regional manufacturers and individuals who want to thrive in the increasingly competitive advanced manufacturing realm. A collaborative effort between Penn State New Kensington and Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland — with support from Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation — the foundry is funded by a $5.5 million grant by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The foundry aims to improve the competitiveness of manufacturers in the region through innovation and continuous learning; foster a networking environment that will increase the awareness of digital manufacturing opportunities among business leaders, workers, students and academia; and facilitate fair and equitable access to workforce development, with several hands-on opportunities with advanced manufacturing technology. The education and training component will be available for those already in the manufacturing industry seeking career advancement, those looking to break into the industry as well as students.
The facility will provide access to cutting-edge digital technologies to regional manufacturers, and its training facility will be a boon for displaced workers, employees looking to acquire advanced skills and schools that seek hands-on, advanced manufacturing experience for their students. Training will be offered in digital twin/digital thread, 3-D visualization and simulation, data mining and analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, automation, smart manufacturing integration, and augmented and virtual reality. It also will have a makerspace for entrepreneurs.
Although education is a big component of what the foundry's mission, this isn't going to be an ivory tower; Executive Director Sherri McCleary emphasizes that the facility is focused on providing pragmatic training that is focused on solving real-world problems with advanced technology.
Employing more than 17,000 people, the manufacturing industry ranks second — behind only health care/social services — in total jobs by sector in Westmoreland County. Though the fundry's impact on Westmoreland industry will be considerable, its benefits are expected to extend beyond our county lines — many already view it through the lens of a regional asset. To that point, McCleary is quick to note that there are more than 5,000 manufacturing companies within a 40-mile radius of New Kensington — and 97 percent of those are small businesses.
Guided by three core values — innovation and continuous learning, collaboration and partnering, and equitable access — the foundry is positioned to become a valuable resource for not just manufacturers in Westmoreland County but the region.
August 2021 proved to be a noteworthy month for the foundry on multiple fronts. That was the month the foundry announced five founding technology partners from private industry — Advanced Controls and Distribution (ACD), Banner Engineering, Ectobox, Premier Automation and Siemens USA. These partners will provide access to state-of-the-art technologies and expertise that the foundry will share with the regional manufacturing community.
"Our founding technology partners are recognized leaders, locally, nationally and internationally in their respective fields and will bring the latest in digital manufacturing technologies to the Digital Foundry at New Kensington,” McCleary said. “This includes things like advanced sensors, edge computing, IIoT, data analytics and visualization, advanced automation and control systems and computational modeling of products and processes to allow for full digital twins and digital threads.”
Also in August, Gov. Tom Wolf announced $186,446 in state funding for the foundry via the Manufacturing Training-to-Career program to help cover the cost of the foundry's demonstration and learning lab, which will be used to train new workers and add to the skillsets of established workers. Later that month, the U.S. Department of Energy, in partnership with the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Institute, selected the Digital Foundry as one of four new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers in the country. bringing the total to eight SMICs.
Stay up to date on developments at the Digital Foundry by filling out this brief form. Additionally, you can learn about how organizations and individuals can become foundry members by filling out the contact form at DigitalFoundryNK.com.