General Electric (GE) decided to take mass production to a new level, using 3D printing to produce hi-tech components for the aerospace, energy and racing sectors, in Cameri, Italy and in Auburn, United States. The company has spent the last several years developing technologies ranging from data analysis to machine monitoring and preventive maintenance to get 3D printing ready for production prime time, with $1 billion annual investment in jet propulsion, considering that is in manufacturing where the technology could have its most significant impact.
Additive manufacturing refers to a successive layering of material to create a finished product, using laser-powered 3D printers and 3D “inking” and “painting” machines. The solution is designed for the manufacturing of hi-tech components for the aerospace, energy and racing sectors, while offering lower material costs and a wider range of alloys compared to traditional manufacturing. Breaking with traditional manufacturing techniques gives GE product designers far greater flexibility, since additive manufacturing machines are directly connected to a computer model, eliminating existing manufacturing limitations.
The process is based on a computer-guided laser sintering method, enabling the production of parts that are otherwise too complex to make using conventional processes. Other benefits are weight reduction, performance improvement, cost reduction and significant scrap rate reduction compared to traditional casting.