GE plans to massively ramp up its 3D printing capacity to make jet engine nozzles, investing tens of millions of dollars, tripling its aviation division’s 70-person staff involved in additive manufacturing, and quadrupling the size of the factory floor.
Bloomberg reports that GE, the world’s biggest maker of jet engines, is investing heavily to act on its plans to make 85,000 3D-printed jet engine fuel nozzles.
TerryWohlers, author of the long-running annual Wohlers Report on the global industry of for additive manufacturing, called the investment plans “unprecedented”.
Wohlers said, “They see a big need, and a lot of demand but the supply is not there.”
The benefits of using additive manufacturing to create nozzles include a lighter, more efficient and stronger part, made from only one piece instead of over 20.
The first 85,000 nozzles mentioned by GE are for engine orders in hand.
The head of business development for additive manufacturing at GE, Greg Morris, said, “With today’s technology, it would take too many machines,” of the plans to create the nozzles for its newest jet engine.
He would not say how much it would cost to invest in the new printers, only that it would be worth "tens of millions" to upgrade capacity and that 60-70 new and expensive machines.
“We can start ramping up with the current generation of technology, but within two to three years we’re going to have to be onto the next generation to meet our cost targets.”
The plans follow GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt’s comments earlier this year that the technology was, “worth my time, and a lot of investment.”
This news also follows the firm’s technical director of manufacturing and materials technology’s comments that the manufacturing process would be a part of more and more of what GE produces.
Commenting to Investor’s Business Daily, Christine Furstoss said that 3D printing would in some way “touch” half of its products in 20 years from now.
"I'm not saying that 25% of all parts will be 3D-printed, but that 3D printing will touch it in some way," said Furstoss.
"Maybe it's the tool that we are using or the early prototypes we make," Furstoss said. "We are committed to driving it in as many areas as we can."