Indiana Smart Manufacturing Lab to Feature GE’s Binder Jet Metal 3D Printing

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Next year, the state of Indiana’s economic development agency will launch a new smart manufacturing hub to support the long-term growth of its manufacturing industry, which is considered a key driver of the local economy. The new facility, known as the Emerging Manufacturing Collaboration Center (EMC2), will be home to GE Additive‘s state-of-the-art binder jet technology, allowing innovators, startups, and manufacturers to advance research and development, and 21st-century skills training in smart manufacturing.

As part of a broader effort to further position Indiana’s manufacturing sector for long-term growth, the state’s Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and GE Additive announced the formation of a metal binder jet public-private partnership. Through this new alliance, both partners have agreed to co-invest in R&D with a focus on additive manufacturing (AM), factory automation, advanced software development, and manufacturing readiness. The aim will be to identify additive innovation opportunities, both adoption and technology development, within Indiana supply chains.

Automotive-related manufacturing accounts for the largest share of advanced industries jobs in Indiana. Image courtesy of Inside Indiana Business

With 8,500 facilities and the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the nation, the Midwestern state has been successfully leading and expanding its manufacturing capabilities for decades. Manufacturers account for 28% of the total output in the state, employing 17% of the workforce. With more than 500 automotive suppliers and five original equipment manufacturer (OEM) companies, Indiana supports the second-largest automotive sector by GDP in the United States, producing more than 1.3 million cars and light trucks annually. Other manufacturers include pharmaceuticals and medical devices, electrical equipment, transportation equipment, chemical products, rubber, petroleum, and coal products.

“Every day, Indiana manufacturers are developing safe, reliable and innovative products that help power the world,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger. “As new trends and technologies change the state of today’s manufacturing industry, Indiana is focused on partnering with forward-thinking organizations like GE Additive and advancing strategic initiatives to propel long-term growth in manufacturing and equip Hoosiers with the industry-focused skills and training needed for the future.”

First announced in May under the IEDC’s $10 million Economic Activity Stabilization and Enhancement (EASE) initiative, the new facility is designed to stimulate manufacturing investments that will position local operations, and the sector overall, for future growth and prosperity. The $3 million in funding for this facility will help provide a physical space located in the thriving 16 Tech Innovation District, on the northwestern edge of downtown Indianapolis, that is expected to open by summer 2021.

Rendering of 16 Tech’s Innovation Hub in Indiana. Image courtesy of 16 Tech Innovation District

EMC2 will allow new and existing manufacturers to use advanced equipment, including GE Additive’s binder jet technology, to train employees, conduct third-party pilot manufacturing, and increase awareness of products and software applications. Working closely with the IEDC to invest in binder jet and software technology, as well as driving innovation in key industry supply chains, GE Additive will make use of the new EMC2 as a physical focal point for the initiative.

GE Additive’s Chief Technology Officer Christine Furstoss said they were excited about this opportunity, mainly because binder jetting is one of the most dynamic areas within AM today and one that the automotive and mobility industry, in particular, is watching closely. Moreover, given Indiana’s strong automotive manufacturing focus, she expects this partnership will tap into its abundant seam of innovation and spark new forward-thinking applications – especially in automation and software development.

GE Additive binder jetting technology. Image courtesy of GE Additive

According to GE Additive, binder jetting is a family of 3D printing technologies in which a print head moves across a bed of powder and deposits a liquid binding agent in the shape of a section to be built, bonding these areas together to form parts, one layer at a time. When complete, the bound parts are removed from the unbound powder. Depending on how complex the final component is, the technology is able to print parts 60 to 100 times faster than laser-based technologies.

The company’s binder jet beta partner program continues to gain momentum, with six global technology and automotive sector players already partnering with GE Additive teams in Cincinnati, Ohio, to commercialize it. Indiana diesel engine maker Cummins was one of the first customers to invest in GE Additive’s binder jet technology, in order to focus on its high-volume production strategy, and recently GE Additive also welcomed Sandvik AM, which markets it’s gas atomized metal AM powder alloys under the Osprey brand.

GE Additive’s ake Brunsberg and Josh Mook, part of the binder jet team in Cincinnati. Image courtesy of GE Additive

“Collaboration with industry sits at the very core of our strategy. We deliberately set out to identify a select group of strategic partners that could help us develop a real-world solution. It’s critically important that when we bring our solution to market next year it can deliver value from day one,” suggested GE Additive Innovation Leader Josh Mook. “Our beta partnership program is already paying dividends in many ways. Now, we’re now looking to extend that industry collaboration. Through the R&D partnership with IEDC we will create a test bed to work with partners, customers, startups, and SMEs in Indiana and further afield to develop additive-centric innovation and real-world solutions.”

To build up momentum until the facility launches, EMC2 and GE Additive will host a virtual industry day on December 8, 2020, to give interested manufacturers and stakeholders a first look at plans for tech space. The event will allow Indiana companies to witness demonstrations of the company’s binder jet technology, participate in industry-focused workshops, and discuss potential projects at the facility.

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