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GE Aviation to Build High Volume Additive Manufacturing Factory

What’s the difference between an early adopter and those who follow a trend? The answer is an individual or company that is willing to take risks in the short-term to achieve long-term goals. While many companies were still dithering about additive manufacturing (AM), GE was investing in the technology and conducting serious research into how to tap into the potential of AM.

Research performed at GE Aviation’s Additive Technology Center (ATC) in Cincinnati, OH has led to design breakthroughs and a willingness to invest further in the technology. As a result of GE Aviation’s successful research into building fuel nozzles using AM, the company has announced it will be building a $50 million high volume additive manufacturing factory in Auburn, AL.

The LEAP engine will be powered in part by 3D printed fuel nozzles, produced by GE Aviation. Courtesy of CFM.

The LEAP engine will be powered in part by 3D printed fuel nozzles, produced by GE Aviation. Courtesy of CFM.

GE plans for equipment installation to begin during 2014, and expects the 300,000 sq. ft. factory will begin producing 3D printed parts by 2015. If all goes according to plan, by the end of 2015 the factory should be home to 10 AM systems and could eventually grow to house 50 systems. According to GE, the new factory should eventually add 300 new jobs to the area.

The Auburn facility will produce the aforementioned fuel nozzles for CFM’s LEAP jet engine. Each engine requires 10 to 20 nozzles, and GE expects the factory will produce 40,000 nozzles annually by 2020. Expected to begin delivery in 2015, CFM already has orders for 6,000 LEAP engines. Read more about it here.

“We spent years proving out this technology for a critical component in the heart of the engine, the combustion chamber” said Greg Morris, GM, Additive Technologies. “Now we are well positioned to apply this technology to other components in the same harsh environment which could prove to be game changing for future engine programs and designs.”

In addition to new employment opportunities, GE will also be partnering with local universities and community colleges. In particular, GE will look to Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) and Southern Union State Community College (SUSCC) for pre-employment training programs, and to Auburn University and Tuskegee University to create internship and co-op opportunities for students.

GE Aviation isn’t the only branch of the GE tree to invest in AM. GE Oil and Gas have also investigated the potential of 3D printing, and it would seem reasonable to expect AM use to spread throughout the rest of the corporation. Below you’ll find a video about the LEAP engine.

Source: GE Aviation 

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About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

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