Loss of 'Made in America' tag explored

Kari Andren
| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Nathan McGill and Vincent Vittorio learned a lot about American manufacturing as they crisscrossed the country for their documentary about the changing nature of the industry and its impact on the towns and cities that play host to companies of all sizes.

But the directors and producers of “American Made Movie” got some of their first glimpses of 3-D printing, known as additive manufacturing, while touring several Westmoreland County sites on Tuesday.

The filmmakers are on their 19th day of a promotional tour hitting 32 cities in as many days. They plan to end their stint in Western Pennsylvania with a screening of “American Made Movie” and a panel discussion in downtown Pittsburgh.

The movie will debut in theaters Aug. 30. They are documenting their tour, filming at each stop for a supplementary DVD.

McGill and Vittorio watched carefully and peppered officials from ExOne in North Huntingdon with questions as they explained the company's 3-D printing operations. The company makes parts and the machines that print those parts from a digital image using stainless steel powder.

Rick Clark, general manager of ExOne, showed the crew “green parts,” the first form that comes out of the machine, and then pieces that had been infiltrated with bronze to fill in gaps and make a solid metal part. Finally, pieces are finished and polished to shiny silver or other patina.

In another area of the facility, ExOne engineering manager Larry Voss showed the crew where workers are building a new metal platform for a 3-D printer.

“Pittsburgh is one of those areas with a rich manufacturing history ... but it's also rebranding itself,” said McGill, 32, of Atlanta. “A place like this (will) change the face of manufacturing in 10 years.”

McGill and Vittorio, 33, who lives in Los Angeles, went to high school together in Georgia but went separate ways for college. About eight years ago, they partnered to make documentaries under Vittorio's company, Life is My Movie Entertainment.

The pair previously made a documentary about tax reform called “An Inconvenient Tax.”

Both men have personal connections to manufacturing; McGill's parents and grandparents worked in the automobile industry, and Vittorio's wife's family worked in Detroit in auto manufacturing.

They were inspired to look at “whatever happened to the ‘Made in America' ” labels after seeing food documentaries focusing on buying local, organic products, McGill said.

The crew also made stops at Westmoreland County Community College to tour its Business and Industry Center and learn about the Advanced Technology Center the college broke ground on this month. The center will provide more space for growing workforce development programs, including 3-D printing.

WCCC purchased a 3-D printer about 2 12 years ago for about $18,000 using federal grant money. Trustees approved using the grant funding to purchase a 3-D scanner and software for about $19,000 in October.

At Elliott Group in Jeannette, the filmmakers planned to present the company with its “Be a Part” award for its investment in the community and the positive economic impact on the area.

Vittorio said the documentary has received “really, really good” responses so far because it blends manufacturing history with personal stories.

“People say, ‘I didn't know I'd weep at a documentary about manufacturing,'” Vittorio said.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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