Last year, GE Additive announced that it would invest $10 million over five years in the educational initiative GE Additive Education Program (AEP). The initiative was designed to nurture and develop the skills of tomorrow’s additive manufacturing experts, starting with making sure that students have access to the necessary resources and equipment – like polymer and metal 3D printers.

This past spring, GE Additive selected over 400 schools around the world to receive 3D printers as part of the program, and today, the company announced that it is now accepting entries from colleges and K-12 schools for this year’s cycle.

[Image: GE Additive]

“GE’s AEP is already having a huge impact on student outcomes. Eighty percent of the primary and secondary students in this inaugural class had never 3D printed before, and two-thirds had never used CAD,” said Greg LaLonde, CEO of Polar3D, which supports AEP. “Now those same students are designing, programming and bringing their own digital models to life as printed objects.”

The AEP’s inaugural year was extremely successful, as more than 400 K-12 schools received two Polar Cloud-enabled 3D printers each, along with STEM curriculum, and eight universities and colleges were given direct metal laser melting (DMLM) machines.

“It is estimated that 180,000 students worldwide now have access to 3D printers as a result of the Education Program. We are excited to continue the program in 2018 and give students across all grades exposure to additive manufacturing,” said Jason Oliver, VP & CEO of GE Additive. “This will help promote interest in STEM and create a pipeline of qualified engineers and technicians to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing.”

This year, AEP will include a subsidy program, so any individual or organization can apply for a subsidy to purchase, on behalf of educational institutions, Polar Cloud-enabled 3D printers and curricula. Applications for the program are now live, and the deadline to apply is February 28, 2018.

The second AEP cycle isn’t the only news GE Additive is sharing today – Concept Laser, now a GE Additive company, recently worked with Bosch at one of its German plants to redesign a small metal part using additive manufacturing technology.

GE Additive is dedicated to developing and transforming the industrial sector, so when production planner Wolfgang Schliebitz and Dr.-Ing. Anna Ebert, process expert, at Bosch in Bamberg, wanted to use additive manufacturing to redesign a conventionally machined oil header, GE Additive was more than happy to help.

Two-part oil header (L) and one-part 3D oil header with improved lubricating action (R). [Image: Concept Laser]

Schliebitz and Dr. Ebert both work in the production line for common rail injectors (CRI), which contain oil headers: small tools that use oil to wet a thread in order to optimize the fitting between two components. While this may not sound incredibly important, new generations of injectors have different surface properties, making it even more necessary to lubricate the outside of the thread to prevent harmful friction. Additionally, the process itself is not easy, and the injector can get discarded if the torque expands out of the tolerance window in the middle of the process.

The oil header was 3D printed in one piece, including additional functions, on an Mlab Cusing system from Concept Laser. [Image: Concept Laser]

Dr. Ebert took a closer look at the oil process on the CRI assembly line, and determined that the thread was only getting lubricated on the top, but not the bottom, which caused blind spots, and a redesign was deemed necessary.

The first new design for an oil header with improved lubrication resulted in a traditionally machined component with four parts. But 3D printing can allow for components like the oil header to be created in just one piece.

The Bosch plant in Nuremberg has an M2 cusing metal 3D printing system, but as the oil header is a small tool, a smaller solution was required. So the company contacted Concept Laser and asked for help with the redesign, along with 3D printing several oil headers to have on hand.

According to a GE Additive release, “Working with the design and manufacturing experts at Concept Laser, Wolfgang Schliebitz and Dr.-Ing. Anna Ebert sought a production-ready solution from the 3D printer. This then resulted in a combination of a new geometry for the oil channels, a new material and a laser melting machine with the correct parameters – and as usual this was all delivered with the one-shot technology that laser melting offers.”

Mlab Cusing. [Image: Concept Laser]

Concept Laser assessed the oil header, and then re-engineered the tool so its channels could optimize the thread lubrication. Then, the company needed a non-corrosive, strong material for the new oil header, and chose CoCr. The tool was 3D printed on the company’s small Mlab cusing metal laser melting 3D printer, which uses a 100W laser to produce delicate parts.

“The process fluctuations were visibly smoothed out. The 3D oil header was much better at delivering the right amount of oil to the right place,” Dr. Ebert said of the redesigned oil header. “The optimized oil channels were the crucial factor behind this. They guaranteed that wetting with oil took place not just at the top of the thread, as was previously the case, but also at the bottom. The blind spots for lubrication that we had previously been accustomed to no longer existed with the AM part.”

Once employees at the Bosch plant in Bamberg saw how it optimized CRI production, the tool was also introduced at the company’s other four plants in France, Germany, South Korea, and Turkey.

“The new oil header looked different. Smaller and more compact,” said Schliebitz. “But what was really surprising was the effect on our process during trials.”

By using 3D printing technology to redesign its oil header, Bosch was able to lower costs, development times, and waste. There is no outlay on the assembly, and the piece is fully optimized with improved lubricant channels.

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