One of the biggest names in 3D printing right now is GE, and often when GE is talked about in an additive manufacturing context, its dedicated additive manufacturing division, GE Additive, is involved. But GE Additive certainly isn’t the only division of the company pursuing 3D printing technology; in fact, six GE businesses are currently using it. GE Aviation, for example, is heavily involved with 3D printing, which is unsurprising considering how important the technology has become to the aviation industry. Another industry in which 3D printing has made a major impact is healthcare, and sure enough, GE Healthcare has been working with the technology as well.
GE Healthcare’s involvement with 3D printing looks like it’s about to deepen, as the company has just opened its first European 3D printing and design center, located in Uppsala, Sweden. Called the Innovative Design and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center for Europe, the lab will feature both metal and polymer 3D printers as well as collaborative robots, or “cobots.” Traditional machining equipment will be available as well. Research and design teams will work with advanced manufacturing engineers and in collaboration with customers to ensure that additive manufacturing expertise is available from the very start of a product design. Teams will work together to design, test and produce 3D printed parts for GE Healthcare products and prepare them for manufacturing.
“We are exploring opportunities where additive can bring cost savings and technical improvements to our supply chain and products,” explains Andreas Marcstrom, Manager of Additive Engineering at GE Healthcare’s Uppsala site. “Simply printing a part doesn’t really deliver that much improvement to a product or process. You have to re-think the entire design – to do this, you need your R&D teams and your additive manufacturing engineers working from the start of the development process – our center in Uppsala ensures that critical step.”
The benefits of additive manufacturing are clear to GE Healthcare, as many medical products are complex and made up of hundreds of different parts. 3D printing, of course, can combine multiple parts into a single piece, making fabrication easier and performance stronger.
GE Healthcare is working with biotechnology company Amgen to test the performance of a chromatography column, which is used in biopharmaceutical development. The custom-designed, 3D printed column is now being tested to see if it can be used in Amgen’s research to help develop improved processes for the purification stage of biopharmaceutical production.
The GE Healthcare Advanced Manufacturing Engineering team has also developed and programmed several cobots which are installed in GE Healthcare’s factories across the world, making production lines more efficient. Many of them are part of GE Healthcare’s development of Brilliant Factories, which are plants that combine continuous improvement with digital technology to operate with higher quality and efficiency.
GE Healthcare has another advanced manufacturing and engineering center located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The teams at the Milwaukee center will collaborate with those at the Uppsala center, sharing ideas and knowledge. GE Healthcare intends for both centers to speed up the launch of new healthcare products, reaching patients faster and improving lives all over the world.
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