Most of the hype around “democratization” as applied to additive manufacturing (AM) is based on the idea that people can design and manufacture unique products that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Of course, designing your own unique product requires you understand the basics of CAD design. It could be possible that interest in AM is building a pool of semi-qualified CAD users that could be put to work to produce specific parts or products if businesses have some way to motivate the masses.
Money is a pretty good motivator for most people. GE Aviation and GrabCAD are testing the waters of crowd sourced design by offering a cash prize to the top entries in an engineering challenge to produce a new loading bracket for jet engines. The new design should be optimized for AM and, while sponsored in part by GrabCAD, can be created in any CAD program.
From the contest page:
Loading brackets on jet engines play a very critical role: they must support the weight of the engine during handling without breaking or warping. The brackets may be used only periodically, but they stay on the engine at all times, including during flight. But these brackets aren’t the only parts on an engine that offer weight-reduction opportunities. There are many similar load-carrying parts on the engine that, because they were designed for conventional manufacturing technologies, are not fully optimized for both performance and weight. By substantiating Additive Manufacturing in this particular case, we will enable significant weight savings throughout the engine.
Designs that meet GE’s standards will go through two stages of testing to determine the best design. The first stage will use simulations to test the basic design and tolerances, and the second phase will see AM-created prototypes tested under conditions similar to practical use. The top ten entries from stage one will each get $1,000, and the top eight designs from stage two will share $20,000.
At last count, the contest had received 115 total entries. It’ll be interesting to see if this sort of crowd sourcing can work for giants such as GE, and if so expect to see other companies attempting to dip into the same pool.
Below you’ll find a video about GE Aviation.