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The Light Turns On for GE in 3D Metal Printing
Posted on September 14th, 2016 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
GE transitions further from practitioner to supplier in additive manufacturing, announcing plans to acquire equipment manufacturers Arcam AB and SLM Solutions Group AG for $1.4 billion.
While GE Aviation has been an innovator and longtime user of metal additive manufacturing techniques such as direct metal laser sintering, acquisition of these companies give GE a substantial presence in the additive manufacturing equipment and services industry that the company will apparently leverage going forward. “Additive manufacturing is a key part of GE’s evolution into a digital industrial company. We are creating a more productive world with our innovative world-class machines, materials and software. We are poised to not only benefit from this movement as a customer, but spearhead it as a leading supplier,” said Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE.
The equipment manufactured by both Arcam and SLM group utilizes computer controlled industrial lasers to selectively melt powdered metals into 3D objects directly from digital CAD models. GE Aviation has successfully used this process in production of the jet engine fuel nozzles used in their LEAP engine. The process combined 18 separate parts into a single component – expediting the manufacturing and assembly of the combustor. The 3D printed design is also credited with reducing the weight of the nozzle by 25% while improving overall engine performance in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
Laser sintering has come a long way since my first experience with it building up a wear lug on a turbine blade made from a nickel-chromium-based superalloy. If you’ve never had the privilege of witnessing the laser sintering process, the team over at Praxair have put together an interesting and informative video on how it works.
It’s clear that advanced manufacturing techniques including additive manufacturing are a key component of GE’s corporate strategy across all of its business units. Investing in a new additive manufacturing equipment business line will not only give GE engineers key insights into the manufacturing processes themselves, but also into the nuances of applying them across a variety of industries.
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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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