GE Additive manufacturing could disrupt a lot of aerospace markets
GE has used additive to build the combustor liner for its CT7 engine and a low pressure turbine blade for the GE9X
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January 8, 2018 - Henry Canaday | MRO Network
Additive metal manufacturing is a "disruptive technology," that will change a lot of the manufacturing landscape, according to Mark Meyer, leader of GE Additive. Just as taxi service often improves when Uber and Lyft move into town, metal casting is being enhanced as additive competes with casting. And Meyer believes additive will soon compete with metal forging, so forging processes may be similarly enhanced in response.
The present focus on additive metal manufacturing has been on new builds. But the same or similar techniques can be used in the replacement market for parts. Indeed, additive techniques are now being used to make plastic replacement parts faster and more efficiently than traditional methods. The same pattern should eventually follow in metal additive.
Video: The Power Of 3D Additive Printing - In The Wild - GE
In any case, GE is going all in for additive. It has acquired Arcam EBM, which does electron beam melting, Concept Laser, which does laser melting, and additive material provider AP&C. Meyer stresses the advantages of additive for aerospace uses and the special advantages of the electron beam process.
GE has been doing a kind of additive manufacturing for years, when it repaired tips of turbine blades by welding bead on top of bead. But the new additive manufacturing methods start with 3D computer models of new parts, slice these models, produce the slices and then join the slices for the whole part. As with traditional manufacturing, substantial processing must then be done to finish the part.
Additive manufacturing can make some parts "better, faster, cheaper," Meyer says. It is especially useful in designing new parts, because it enables designers to "fail faster," that is test and modify preliminary designs to optimize design.