Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Most Impressive of 3D Printing -- GE Printed a Helicopter Engine

This is the most impressive example of 3D printing I have seen to date. This article is at Additive Manufacturing. The article is by PETER ZELINSKI, Editor-in-Chief, Additive Manufacturing and is titled:

This is a real game-changer on both technical and economic fronts.  Zelinski quotes from a GE article:

"They [Ehteshami and others from GE and Morris] moved a few machines to a drab building away from the main campus across Interstate 75 and started experimenting in secret with printing pieces of an old commercial helicopter engine. “We took six engineers and told them go and see what portion of the total engine they can print,” Ehteshami says. “We hid them from our financial management, because we didn’t want them to cut our budget.”

The clandestine effort paid off. Within 18 months, the team was able to print half of the machine, reducing 900 separate components to just 16, including one segment that previously had 300 different parts. The printed parts were also 40 percent lighter and 60 percent cheaper.To make these parts the ordinary way, you typically need 10 to 15 suppliers, you have tolerances, you have nuts, bolts, welds and braces,” Ehteshami says. “All of that went away.”

The technology of going from 900 parts to 16 is tremendous, but the supplier side affects are even in more interesting.  This goes back to a question that I have often pondered going back to the beginning of MTConnect in 2006 where one of my slides had the bullet, "The Network Is The Machine Tool" and that question is, "when will see the 'Linux_ation' of discrete manufacturing where large CNCs go the way of mainframe with a sea of 3D printers?

What GE has accomplished is certainly a significant milestone.