Apr 7, 2016 | By Benedict

GE’s $200 million, Multi-Modal advanced manufacturing facility in Pune, India, could revolutionize 3D printing and cause a ripple effect in the country’s manufacturing industry. The giant facility, located in Pune, near Mumbai, covers 67 acres.

This week, General Electric is celebrating the opening of its much-anticipated Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That $39 million facility will help to centralize GE’s additive manufacturing development, while opening up specialist positions in an area of thriving technological activity. But while the CATA will vastly improve GE’s 3D printing operations in the U.S., it is another, larger GE facility that could see the company making a more significant impact on global manufacturing and economic development in the long term.

In 2015, GE unveiled its $200 million, Multi-Modal advanced manufacturing facility in Chakan, Pune, part of the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Dubbed a “brilliant factory” by its creators, the facility was established to produce jet engine parts, locomotive components, wind turbines, and a host of other additively and traditionally manufactured components for a number of GE companies. The facility now employs around 1,500 workers, responsible for operating 3D printers and other machinery. "The idea is to service a multitude of businesses—from oil and gas, to aviation, transportation, and distributed power—all under the same roof," said GE's Amit Kumar, overseer of the Multi-Modal facility, via TechRepublic.

The Multi-Modal facility provides GE with several advantages. By bringing a number of interconnected operations under one roof, the company will allegedly save up to ten times as much money than if it had established individual facilities for separate business lines. The facility is also helping to bring plastic and metal additive manufacturing technology to its India operations, an advancement which offers the company huge flexibility and cost-saving potential.

It is not often that a company as large as GE becomes known for one particular product in a given field, but the creation of its 3D printed jet engine fuel nozzle has come close to achieving that effect over the last couple of years. Symbolizing the company’s newfound intentions to pursue additive manufacturing for critical end-use parts, the 3D printed fuel nozzle revolutionized the way in which GE approached manufacturing complex mechanical parts. "Before GE targeted it for a reconfiguration, the nozzle was made up of 20 disparate parts procured from independent suppliers that were then painstakingly brazed and welded together,” explained Greg Morris, GE Aviation's general manager for additive technologies. “3D printing completely transformed that process.”

Eventually, the Pune facility will produce critical end-use components such as the jet engine fuel nozzle, but it will first service a more urgent need: 3D printing replacement parts for broken machinery—parts that would otherwise have to be made in bulk and stored, or sourced from an external supplier. Replacement parts, especially for older appliances, can be incredibly difficult to source when those appliances are discontinued or simply made in small quantities. 3D printing these replacement parts is much faster than producing them using traditional manufacturing techniques, with previous timescales of three to five months reduced to around one week when additive manufacturing is implemented.

Fortunately, using additive manufacturing for this purpose is something GE is already well familiar with: "3D printing isn't anything new at GE," said Prabhjot Singh, Manager of GE's Additive Manufacturing Lab in Schenectady, New York. "It's been around for decades and has been typically used to repair worn-out or broken down, high-value industrial parts such as compressor blades or gears using laser cladding technology.”

The Multi-Modal facility in Pune is not GE’s first foothold in India. The company already had a large development and research center in Bangalore, GE’s first ever non-U.S. facility, which employs around 4,500 staff. The two facilities will frequently interact, with the larger Bangalore facility feeding the Chakan location with new products to manufacture. "We work with GE colleagues all over the world," said Vinod Kumar, who leads materials and inspection for GE Global Research in Bangalore. "We are part of any global team's technology project, located in various parts of the world, from day one.”

Given the company’s reputation as a pillar of American innovation and labor, some will decry GE’s continued explorations on foreign soil, but the Pune additive manufacturing facility will undoubtedly heighten the company’s potential to produce high-quality 3D printed products all across the globe. The facility will also help to create jobs and spark technological developments in India, both within GE and for suppliers and connected businesses. This fact was recognized as such by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who attended the facility’s opening in February 2015.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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