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GE Goes Big for Additive Manufacturing – One Cubic Meter to Be Exact
Posted on June 28th, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
In another first from the Paris Air Show, GE is upping the ante when it comes to direct laser sintering additive manufacturing by previewing a technology demonstrator machine dubbed “ATLAS”. In development for the last two years and setting a new record for volumetric capacity, the new machine extends potential application of additive manufacturing to companies in the aerospace, automotive, power, and oil and gas industries.
Upon commercial availability next year, the ATLAS will be the world’s largest laser-powder additive manufacturing machine according to the GE announcement. Boasting a build envelope of one cubic meter (1000mm x 1000mm x 1000mm), it beats the current largest comparable machine of Concept Laser by an impressive 525% having a build envelope of a mere 0.16 cubic meters or 800mm x 400mm x 500mm. With this newly expanded size and the capability to utilize both non-reactive and reactive materials such as aluminum and titanium, the design benefits of additive manufacturing can be applied to substantially more components.
A producer of additive manufacturing machines in their GE Additive division, GE also consumes the technology in other divisions including GE Aviation. One notable application is in their Advanced Turboprop (ATP) aircraft engine which the company claims another first of being the first commercial aircraft in history having a large portion of the components produced using additive manufacturing. Designers of the new engine successfully reduced 855 separate parts down to just 12, resulting in more than a third of the engine being 3D-printed.
As you can see in the image above, many of the casings of the ATP include a ribbed integral stiffening pattern which adds strength where needed but reduces overall part weight. Done at the time of production using additive manufacturing it eliminates the need to remove unnecessary material in mater manufacturing steps. Learn more about the technology applied in the ATP in the following video:
While bigger is not always better, the capacity of GE’s new ATLAS direct laser sintering machine does offer the promise of extending the benefits of additive manufacturing to components formerly too big for existing machine envelopes. By virtue of their size, bigger parts use more material so also offer opportunity for returns on weight savings and material cost. The engineers and designers at GE are once again proving that it’s not the size of the sword, it’s how you can make it.
What are your thoughts on GE’s new ATLAS machine? How does the new, larger capacity impact your company’s product line? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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