Last week, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $72 million in funding for domestic wind energy and hydropower projects, including over $40 million awarded to projects for advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing. The remaining funds will also affect the same industrial concerns, insofar as they will be allocated to research projects into certain potential environmental and social impacts of implementing the infrastructure relevant to the manufacturing efforts.
The R&D division of General Electric (GE), GE Research, was the leading recipient of the funding by a wide margin, bringing in well over $20 million, or about half the money that is explicitly for manufacturing R&D. For the largest individual project, involving manufacturing of near net shape metal components for hydropower equipment, GE Research was the sole recipient, being awarded $14.9 million.
This would seem to bode well for GE Vernova, the company that will be formed out of what is currently GE’s energy division. Like GE HealthCare Technologies did earlier this year, GE’s energy operations will become GE Vernova at the beginning of 2024 when it spins out of the parent company, which will then remain as GE Aerospace. In addition to the hydropower funding, GE Research also received funds to explore additive manufacturing (AM) for large wind turbine blades and other components, as well as funds for R&D into advanced materials for use in large wind blades.
What will be especially interesting to see is what other companies are brought onto the projects as beneficiaries of GE Research’s funds. One company that I specifically have in mind is COBOD, the Danish-based world leader in additive construction (AC) platforms. In April 2022, GE Renewable and COBOD announced that they were opening “the world’s largest” research facility for AC, featuring a concrete printer designed by COBOD exclusively for GE. The relevance here is that GE and COBOD have long collaborated on 3D printing bases for wind turbines. The month after the facility was announced, GE Renewable announced that it had become a minority investor in COBOD.
In any case, it is always refreshing to see areas of the US government that aren’t the Department of Defense (DoD) spending big on AM. Even if you only care about national security issues, spreading the money around will, in the long run, be just as important to the US’s national security concerns as anything explicitly defense-related. When the tech-transfer of manufacturing know-how from the DoD to the rest of the government happens en masse, the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of that process will be largely determined by the extent to which agencies like the DOE have already hit the ground running.
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