VIDEO: How Additive Manufacturing Simplifies Complex Assemblies

GE Additive expert hopeful that industrial 3D printing will become faster and more affordable.

For manufacturers considering additive manufacturing (AM) to enhance their capabilities, there are a couple of ways at looking at the process: either in terms of production machinery that can be installed on a liner, or as a service.

In the video above, we learn about how manufacturers can partner with AM experts to develop parts and prototypes off-site, capitalizing on unique services and material offerings. General Electric (GE) is one such expert, having found significant advantages in 3D printing parts for the aerospace industry.

“GE Additive’s concept is that we’re going to sell this technology with Concept Laser and Arcam and reach out to the consumer base to help them with our design services,” explained Tim Warden, sr. sales director at GE Additive. “Our experience in the aviation world can really help them shorten the learning curve and help manufacturers find the right applications for this technology.”

GE Aviation turned to AM to develop the LEAP fuel nozzle, turning what used to be a complex assembly into a single part. The LEAP engine, currently undergoing test flights, uses 19 of these 3D-printed fuel nozzles.

“It all comes down to what the customer is looking for,” Warden said. “Maybe you’re looking for a quick turnaround part to get into production; other people are thinking of taking models and reducing part count, like we did with the advanced turboprop program. We broke down the entire engine and took 855 parts down to 12. We had 33 to 35 different suppliers and got that down to one–ourselves–for that production program.”

GE saw advantages and cost savings to the process not only in part count reduction, but also in light weighting and time to market.

When asked whether the technology will work its way down the supply chain in industries like automotive, Warden was optimistic.

“Right now, the machines are still expensive, but when you really think about aviation, we’re making parts that cost as much as a car in some applications. However, machines will get faster and become more affordable.”

For more information, watch the video above and visit the GE Additive website

Written by

James Anderton

Jim Anderton is the Director of Content for Mr. Anderton was formerly editor of Canadian Metalworking Magazine and has contributed to a wide range of print and on-line publications, including Design Engineering, Canadian Plastics, Service Station and Garage Management, Autovision, and the National Post. He also brings prior industry experience in quality and part design for a Tier One automotive supplier.