Feb.8, 2013

"Manufacturing excellence forgotten for too long is once again a competitive advantage," said Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO. GE has been tracking the advances of new technological movements such as 3D printers and 3D modeling software, and how those technologies are impacting the manufacturing.

At an Atlantic conference yesterday Immelt said, 3D printing "makes unique shapes with high tech material, in a quick period of time, that is worth my time, and a lot of investment".

GE, whose annual revenues were more than $142 billion in 2012 selling engines, turbines, and hospital equipment, has been using the additive manufacturing technology for 20 years and they are already using the method on some parts repair work for engines.

One example is the new LEAP jet engine made by CFM International, a joint-venture between GE and France's Snecma. The engine includes parts "printed" on a SLM 250HL additive manufacturing machine, from SLM Solutions in Lubeck, Germany.

(3D printed parts | Source: GE)

In November 2012 GE subsidiary GE Aviation acquired locally based Morris Technologies and its sister company that produces components for this best-selling LEAP jet engine.

"It's one of the biggest things to happen in manufacturing in some time," says engineer Luana Iorio, who leads manufacturing research at the GE's Global Research Center (GRC). "You give the designers a completely new freedom. They are not bound by the constraints of traditional manufacturing. They can really strip down products to the core of what it is they need them to do."

GE's CEO Jeff Immelt said 3D printing is going to be big as it will shorten product cycle times. "3D printing helps you make the product from the core up so you basically don't have much waste," said he in the interview. "The tool is cheaper, the recycle time is faster. If all I thought 3D printing could do was shoes, I wouldn't be talking about it."

GE estimates that by 2020, there will be some 100,000 printed parts inside GE and CFM engines. "We may not fully realize it yet, but we are at the dawn of the next Industrial Revolution with additive manufacturing," says Michael Idelchik, vice president of advanced technologies at the GRC. "It has the potential to fundamentally disrupt how complex products like jet engines are designed and made in the future. And we believe that the U.S. is well positioned to lead the way in its growth and development."

Watch the video below GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt interviewed by Greg Ip, economics editor of The Economist talking about what next for US manufacturing is. (He starts talking about 3D printing at 20:25)




 

 

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