“Our grandfather was Thomas Edison; we pride ourselves on innovation and invention,” said Mohammad Ehteshami, Vice President, Additive Integration, GE Additive, at last week’s Materialise World Summit. “The latest and greatest invention is GE Additive.”

This week, GE has made it even clearer just how much importance they place on their additive manufacturing business with an investment totaling more than €100 million in Germany. Part of that investment includes a new €15 million Customer Experience Center in Munich, which will be the first of several GE Additive centers that the company plans to establish around the world. The Customer Experience Center, which will adjoin GE’s Global Research Center, will allow current and potential customers to get hands-on experience designing and producing components with additive manufacturing.

Some of the biggest 3D printing news of 2016 was GE’s acquisition of major industry companies Arcam and Concept Laser, and the two businesses will play a large part in the new facility, in which up to 10 of their respective additive manufacturing machines will be installed. GE’s cloud-based operating platform PREDIX will also be installed for industrial-scale analytics and GE Edge devices, which offer real-time control and monitoring.

The facility will complement the customer training and support facilities within both the Arcam and Concept Laser facilities, and will also serve as a distribution center for spare parts.

“The concept of customer experience centers is an integral part of GE Additive’s strategy to expose and engrain the additive technology to manufacturers worldwide,” said Robert Griggs, general manager of the Customer Experience Centers for GE Additive. “We expect to announce the second GE Customer Experience Center later this year with others to follow.”

In addition, GE has invested €100 million into Concept Laser’s site in Bavaria. By the end of the year, the number of employees at the site is expected to increase from 200 to 300, and GE is just getting started – according to Ehteshami, the company is on the lookout for additional acquisition opportunities. GE now owns two of the five main 3D printing technologies – powder and electron beam manufacturing – and has ambitions about getting involved in all of them, Ehteshami said.

By 2020, GE plans to turn GE Additive into a $1 billion external sales business. Since the acquisitions of Concept Laser and Arcam, GE has added more than 100 engineers around the world to support their products, Ehteshami said at the Materialise World Summit, and their goal is to sell 10,000 machines outside of GE, while GE uses 1,000 of them internally. Ehteshami also said that while he can’t release the details, either Arcam or Concept Laser will soon be introducing a 3D printer co-developed with GE to the market, and that it will be big – the build area will be measured in meters.

GE Additive’s focus is on three main areas at the moment: additive materials, engineering consultancy services, and additive machines and PREDIX. The system will be installed on GE machines and will be self-learning.

“All machines on the same network will learn the same thing,” Ehteshami said.

Ehteshami discussed the development of GE’s now-famous 3D printed LEAP jet engine fuel nozzle, as well as the currently-in-development advanced turboprop engine (ATP), a demonstrator for which underwent its first test in November. The actual engine itself will be tested in Q3 of this year, he said, and remarked on how additive manufacturing has sped the engine’s development, taking the combustor test schedule from 12 months down to six and bringing 855 parts down to only 12.

He has big ambitions for GE Additive’s future, particularly in regards to aviation, which he reiterated at Hannover Messe today.

“I have a belief that you’ll be able to print the whole jet engine,” he said.

Discuss in the GE forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images: Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com]

 

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