Aug 11, 2017 | By Benedict

GE is harnessing its expertise in lasers and fluidics to unearth new 3D printing solutions. GE laser researcher Marshall Jones was recently inducted into the 2017 class of the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work in the field, and is now focused on improving lasers for 3D printing.

It’s no secret that the greatest innovations—in 3D printing and elsewhere—often come about through collaboration. And GE, a multinational corporation with an interest in many, many areas of technology, engineering, and scientific research, is perhaps better equipped than anyone to bring about such collaboration.

In the latest update from GE Reports, Todd Alhart of GE Global Research explains how GE is bringing its laser and fluidics experts together to create better additive manufacturing equipment.

The reason for the merging of expertise in lasers and fluidics is simple. Lasers are required for most metal 3D printing processes like DMLS, SLM, and DMLM, but the environment in which these lasers can work must be highly controlled in terms of gas glow and other factors.

“If it were just a matter of integrating higher-power lasers, that would be easy,” explains Waseem Faidi, leader of the additive research team for machine technology at GE Global Research. “But there’s a lot going on inside the chamber with different gas flows during the printing process that prevents you from doing that.”

Fortunately, the wide scope of research taking place within GE means that the teams responsible for laser development are never more than a few degrees of separation from an equivalent expert in gas flow and other sciences.

This is just one of the reasons why GE’s acquisition of 3D printing companies Concept Laser and Arcam could prove so successful: GE is, in Alhart’s words, “filled with scientists who study airflows through gas, steam and wind turbines and, especially, jet engines,” and these scientists can help additive manufacturing teams to perfect the gas flow environments of new 3D printers.

To assist their work in 3D printer laser development, Faidi’s team recently joined forces with the Aerodynamics (Aero) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) teams at GE’s labs in Niskayuna in New York and Munich in Germany.

“The question with 3D metal printers is ‘how can I control gas flows in such a way that allows us to scale up the power of the lasers in the machine beyond what is possible today?’” Faidi says. “If we can figure that out, we can significantly improve the printing speed and quality of our machines today.”

So how close is GE to figuring that out and potentially creating the next generation of high-speed metal 3D printers? It’s hard to say right now, but evidence suggests the company is in good shape to attempt it.

Look at the recent praise poured on GE’s Marshall Jones, for instance. The National Inventors Hall of Fame just inducted Jones, a GE laser stalwart, into this year’s Hall of Fame class, highlighting how he “invented novel methods to weld dissimilar metals and developed fiber optic systems.”

And while not everyone amongst GE’s ranks will end up being a Marshall Jones, the Hall of Fame recognition shows the caliber of talent available to the American company.

“We have a world-class team in laser technology with decades of experience bringing new laser applications in cutting and welding to manufacturing,” Jones says.

Jones’ research has involved developing lasers that can cut through metal, and the Hall of Fame inductee is now applying his expertise to additive manufacturing, specifically in terms of how to increase laser power in 3D printers.

3Ders has reached out to GE for further information about its laser and fluidics research.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer Company

 

 

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