Monday, 30 September 2013

GE hangout in the Future of 3D Printing

GE Global Research recently hosted a Google Hangout on the Future of Additive Manufacturing. Summary:
  • GE is the largest user of metallic AM in the world - largest fleet of 3D Printers for prototyping, tooling, end user parts, 600 engineers signed up in AM programs
  • Opens up a whole new world for designers, convergence of design, materials and manufacturing collaborations
  • Kick starting the "3rd Industrial Revolution" where the "Process is the Product"
  • Driven by millions of people who are part of the 'Maker' movement as well
  • Beginning of a democratization of 3D Printing "Craftmanship" via access to platforms, content creation, participation and connection "Virtual to Actual"
  • GE creating ecosystems around AM to explore potentialities, especially "Software meets hardware"
  • Terry Wohlers "So excited by unprecedented change"  29% growth in 2012 but a number of challenges remain "People are confusing the results from $1500 systems with the $1m systems" 
  • GE acquired Morris Technologies using AM, GE learning limitations and potentialities
  • Media coverage over last 2 years - leading to household term - widespread interest
  • Opportunity to use AM for real production parts, e.g. GE fuel nozzles, lightweight topologically optimized parts
  • Future: multi-functional, multi-material components: integration of additive and subtractive in one process
  • Manufacturing Innovations at NAMII seeing shift to production parts and lower cost processes, need for AM Quality / Process Control
  • Sectors: aerospace, automotive, bio-medical ... broadening to motorsports, fashion, clothing, food, architecture, art ... mass customization
  • Need for Workforce Training ("People to understand") for AM ... there is a move to make this a part of direct mainstream manufacturing ("People are getting excited")
  • Nylon parts in structural applications for over a decade
  • Patient specific medical devices and surgical instruments
  • Metals are an exciting area - commercially and industrially viable in ferrous and non-ferrous and in some cases ceramic - purity and density
  • Conductivity and embedded smarts
  • 3D Systems seeing opportunity for mash ups between Additive and Subtractive - multi-functional components
  • What are the limitations? Larger parts, residual stresses, big leap to end user manufacturing, part longevity compared to 'prototype' short life parts ... "Not direct replacement of existing parts ... economics does not work unless parts are re-designed and simplified in the design software for AM production" 
  • GE "Subtractive may increase as a result of AM" 
  • Research grants for multi-functional processes .... e.g. sensors embedded in functional structures, , multiple disciplines working together "3D printing a great tool to excite and energize engineering students ... to think in 3D dimensions"
  • Better software tools need for multi-functional, multi-material, AM design
  • GE very interested in 3D Printing of ceramics ... ceramics today requires heavy, complex and expensive infrastructure and a lot of process knowledge ... GE AM printing piezoelectric ceramic materials for medical imaging e.g. ultrasound probes ... new products now in trials 
  • 3D Systems excited by ability to process many types of ceramics, finer powders/details for variety of applications including consumer
  • Avi: "Empowering start ups is a game changer" ... scale-able desktop manufacturing for entrepreneurs "The train has left the station" 
  • GE looking for talent in the community, ecosystems ...
  • GE eye is towards 3D printed rotational / moving parts ... repair and service parts close to the end user or consumer ... but GE will never give up on quality, assurance, part performance, safety, reliability, toughness, strength, peace of mind every time for every part ... "It's a new technology, a new physics" 
  • Wohlers: New standards F42 on AM, ISO/TC 261 will accelerate adoption 
  • DIY'ers, makers, engineering students 'geeks' and 'hobbyists' are adopting low end AM
  • May not see families turning out parts with home printers, but will use 3D Printing services (gifts) and some educational products (kids niche similar to Lego Mindstorms)
  • Moving towards multi-functional components, e.g. a 3D printed DC brushless motor - some process interrupt e.g. magnet insertion - but "We have an entire electro-mechanical system, fully 3D printed, break it off the support structure and it works, spin the rotor, shaft, motor works"  ( or via YouTube
  • GE final comments "AM will be just another tool just like introducing lasers into machining. It will not replace everything. We will always need machining. Does allow for new designs. There will be a shift but not as dramatic as some think."
  • Wohlers: "Cannot predict the future."

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