GE revealed the beta version of the worldâ€™s largest 3D printer for metals, which uses a laser and a powder bed to make parts. It is capable of printing parts as large as 1 meter in diameter directly from a computer file by fusing together thin layers of metal powder with a 1-kilowatt laser. The machine has the potential to build even bigger parts, due to the nature of the scalable technology. Customers are already requesting machines with build volumes of more than 1 meter cubed.
GE used the beta machine to print a jet engine combustor liner.
GE uses proprietary technology to control powder dosing, reducing powder consumption by 69 percent compared to traditional machines â€œon its first attempt.â€� The machine will also print faster than todayâ€™s machines. GE can configure the design and allows customers to add more lasers.
The new printer will also take advantage of Predix, GEâ€™s software platform for the industrial internet, to monitor the printing process and also the health of the machine. Concept Laserâ€™s new M2 printers already come with data analytics using Predix to monitor machine utilization and production and look for potential problems before they occur.
Several GE businesses are already using additive manufacturing to make and develop new products. GE Aviation is printing fuel nozzles for the LEAP family of jet engines. The company is also building the Advanced Turboprop, the first commercial aircraft engine in history with a large portion of components made by additive manufacturing methods, which include 3D printing. The designers reduced 855 separate parts down to just 12. As a result, more than a third of the engine is 3D printed. GE Healthcare, GE Power and the oil- and gas-field services company Baker Hughes are also using the technology.