Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Who is right about 3D printing? Foxconn or GE?

We live in strange times. Just as Foxconn CEO Terry Gou says that "3D printing is a gimmick and has no commercial value", GE CEO Jeff Immelt says he would love to 3D print jet engines ... or at least some of their largest parts.

“We make a turbine blade that is made of some of the most expensive high-heat material in the world,” Immelt said. “We put that blade through the fabrication process and the excess material is essentially waste.”

GE hopes to one day use the technology to create engine parts in a more efficient and less costly way. It would also cut down the time to design and develop an engine by half. “We’re a company that wants to own our supply chain,” he said. “This is going to be a great place to put capital.” And as we reported GE is making plans to grow better fuel nozzles.

Why these differences of opinion?

3D Printing is all about materials. Foxconn is one of the world's largest electronics manufacturing companies. It is harder to see the relevance of Additive Manufacturing to Foxconn at this stage. For GE, however, the laser sintering of powered metals has many applications.

We've said it a hundred times before 3D Printing is not one technology. There are over thirty different processes, each optimized to different kinds of materials, and they share little in common. While there could be some convergence in the far future, expect these differences to continue to generate differences of opinion about the industrial significance of 3D printing.

And that's why any analysis of the impact of 3D printing on a certain industry depends on detailed and current knowledge of the available and reliable additive manufacturing techniques.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.3ders.org/articles/20130712-chris-anderson-terry-gou-definition-of-3d-printing-is-too-narrow.html