GE Additive Goes Big and Goes Medical
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 21, 2017 | 2532 views

Since the formation of GE Additive, the additive manufacturing (AM) division of one of the world’s largest manufacturers has had a steady stream of announcements. Two of the latest indicate that the company’s plans for 3D printing are aggressive. After announcing a partnership with Stryker to supply machines, materials and services for the medical manufacturer’s supply chain, GE Additive has also announced the development of the largest powder bed fusion metal 3D printer to date.


3D Printing Implants

Styker has been using AM since 2001 and has invested in Concept Laser and Arcam machines, which are now manufactured by GE Additive. The company subsequently opened a global technology development center with an additive technology manufacturing hub in Carrigtohill, County Cork, Ireland. 

This would enable Stryker to expand its product line, which includes a cementless knee implant that has two 3D-printed parts, a tibial baseplate and the Tritanium Posterior Lumbar Cage. By incorporating pores into the designs of these devices, it’s possible to encourage bone growth and a quicker integration of the implant by the patient’s body. 

Stryker’s patent-protected 3D printing process produces porous structures within its implants, such as this Tritanium PL Cage component, for quicker incorporation into the body. (Image courtesy of Stryker.)
Stryker’s patent-protected 3D printing process produces porous structures within its implants, such as this Tritanium PL Cage component, for quicker incorporation into the body. (Image courtesy of Stryker.)
“GE and Stryker share a similar vision, and both of us understand the transformative power of additive design and manufacturing,” said vice president and general manager of GE Additive, Mohammad Ehteshami. “We regard Stryker as one of the most experienced practitioners of metal additive, with a range of commercialized medical products. We will continue to innovate with new additive products, materials and technologies, which will support their growth.”

 

The Largest Powder Bed Fusion 3D Printer

When GE Additive acquired a majority stake in Concept Laser, it bought the manufacturer of the largest powder bed fusion system in the world, the X line 2000R, which has a build volume of 0.8 m x 0.4 m x 0.5 m and two 1kW lasers. Among its users is Airbus subsidiary Premium AEROTEC. 

At the Paris Air Show, GE announced that it has spent the past two years developing an even larger system dubbed ATLAS. With a build volume of 1 m x 1 m x 1 m, ATLAS is designed to produce large-scale parts or a large series of parts. 

“The machine will 3D print aviation parts that are one meter in diameter, suitable for making jet engine structural components and parts for single-aisle aircraft. The machine will also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power, and oil and gas industries,”said Ehteshami of GE Additive. “We have customers collaborating with us, and they will receive beta versions of the machine by year’s end. The production version (yet to be named) will be available for purchase next year.” 

So far, GE has developed several proof-of-concept machines, but it plans to unveil the first official demonstrator at the Formnext Show in Frankfurt, Germany, this November. The machines will be scalable, depending on customer needs, and can process reactive and nonreactive metals, such as titanium and aluminum. The company hopes to begin delivering machines to customers in late 2018. 

Both moves are significant, given the fact that GE only officially became a 3D printer manufacturer at the end of last year. Now, it has shown that it will not be slowing down by getting into the highly active medical space and releasing a new system for the mass manufacturing of metal 3D printed parts. 

To learn more about GE Additive, read our interview with Greg Morris and visit the division website.

Recommended For You