GE Additive and GE Aerospace subsidiary Avio Aero have signed a non-binding letter of intent (LOI) with BEAMIT Group, partly owned by Sandvik, which will see BEAMIT work with Avio Aero on technology development, specifically post-processing, of 3D printed parts for the GE9X and Catalyst engines. The news represents a greater stake for the quickly growing BEAMIT Group and potentially significant developments in how metal 3D printed parts are finished.
BEAMIT is a long-time customer of GE Additive, having its own fleet of Concept Laser and Arcam electron beam melting (EBM) machines. This includes, Mlab, M2, and X Line laser powder bed fusion systems, along with two Q10plus EBM systems through its subsidiaries, Pres-X and Zare.
Now, GE Additive and BEAMIT are extending their relationship further as they embark on multiple projects, which include materials, as well as “special post-processing machinery and technologies.” GE Additive would become BEAMIT’s equipment supplier, seeing the partial-Sandvik subsidiary take on more GE machines as it grows over time.
Specifically, the partners would work together on post-processing needed to meet the requirements of GE9X and Catalyst engine parts. This would include, MRI and tomographic inspection, hot isostatic pressing (HIP), and machining equipment. BEAMIT would aim to cut lead times for the processing of these parts, including machining and testing. Additionally, with Avio Aero, the firm would develop methods associated with “super-cleaning and super-finishing surfaces.”
“Industrializing metal additive manufacturing (AM) in aerospace continues at pace and we need trusted partners in our ecosystem who can grow with us. I am thrilled that we are strengthening our relationship with BEAMIT and its shareholder Sandvik. BEAMIT’s sound strategic vision and the wider team’s advanced additive expertise is world-class,” said Riccardo Procacci, CEO of Avio Aero and GE Additive.
Moreover, BEAMIT would aid in the development of GE Additive’s Concept Laser M Line Factory system. This series is meant to be for customers who use metal additive manufacturing for production-level volumes, with a stitching ability for large parts. BEAMIT would work with GE Additive to adapt and qualify the M Line for 3D printing aerospace components, which would include BEAMIT obtaining the needed aerospace qualifications for establishing a dedicated R&D division.
“It is an honor for me to enter into this LOI with GE for projects of this magnitude. Being where we are today, as one of the largest, most integrated and advanced additive manufacturing groups in the world, we are in a position to offer leading capabilities across the entire AM value chain, also through our shareholder Sandvik’s leading material expertise and extensive metal powder capabilities. This definitely confirms the hard work that started seven years ago as a vision, and has been pursued with great commitment and strength,” said Mauro Antolotti, President, BEAMIT Group.
As work progresses, BEAMIT would aim to develop “a completely digitalized and sustainable production line” for manufacturing “engine ready” parts for assembly where GE components would be made. Along with the LOI, BEAMIT has opened a new facility dedicated to coatings to improve additive parts for aerospace.
Altogether, the project lays the groundwork for BEAMIT’s “One Stop Shop” approach. The company already has five NADCAP accreditation and is working on three more, as well as the necessary ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and EASA part 21 pathways.
“Our strategic and industrial partnership with our shareholder Sandvik gives us a competitive advantage when it comes to leading materials expertise, materials development capabilities and supply of the widest range of alloys. Now, making the ‘One Stop Shop’ concept a reality, together with the digital integration of the entire value chain is a differentiating element, which can play an essential role in making additive manufacturing even more sustainable – without a waiver to the technical advantages offered by technology. In Avio Aero and GE Additive, we have found companies who share a similar strategic vision and a strong focus on the research of new materials for additive manufacturing as well as new technologies,” said Andrea Scanavini, Group General Manager, BEAMIT Group. “Ultimately, the digitalized factory is a key element of our mid-term strategy to enable a win-win relationship with GE. A dedicated factory where all the manufacturing phases are installed and directly interconnected allows us to reach the maximum grade of efficiency, high productivity and total quality required by GE.”
This certainly bodes well for BEAMIT, which is quickly becoming a premium service provider for industrial 3D printing. Driven by Sandvik’s investment, the company has been able to make multiple acquisitions and it is now a force to reckon with in the industry.
For GE, this allows an established customer aid in the development of its products, perhaps offloading some of the onus onto a more agile partner. As attention moves from advancing the fabrication side of the AM workflow over to the post-processing side, we may see the M Line concept more fully realize what Concept Laser dreamt up prior to its acquisition by GE: the AM Factory of Tomorrow.
Similar to a number of visions by other metal 3D printing firms, this idea was meant to have multiple automated modules work together to prep, print, and process metal parts en masse, in some cases with robots carrying build trays to and from the various modules. In order to achieve this dream, post-processing will need to become much more automated.
We’ve seen AZO aid Michelin/Fives joint venture AddUp in automating powder handling. Perhaps we will now see BEAMIT and Avio Aero automate some of GE’s post-processing. However, given talk about GE’s financial situation, one wonders if it may lead to something more. Would it be unreasonable to think that the roughly 160-year-old Sandvik, worth some $10 billion in revenues, would consider taking GE Additive off of GE’s hands?
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