3D Printing of Metal Parts is Now Mainstream!

Credit: GE Aviation

3D Printing in Metal Update - Latest in Aviation & Autos!

3D Printing has ushered in a new era in Metal manufacturing. An era of new technologies, new software driven hardware, reinvention of how products are designed, manufactured and serviced. Stronger components, less material waste, parts that are impossible to create using traditional techniques, equivalent but lighter weight parts, less brazes and welds and lower part counts are driving product performance and enhancing productivity!

3D Printing, aka additive manufacturing, saves money on material costs and time from design to manufacturing by printing objects in layers directly from a computer design instead of cutting them out of blocks of material.

Consider these 4 amazing achievements at just one leading manufacturer, GE Aviation:

  • GE has 400+ 3D Printing machines currently in use, has already invested over a $1B internally in 3D Printing and almost $1.5B in 3D Printing acquisitions over the last year alone. GE now owns two (powder and electron-beam) of the five principal 3D Printing technologies. Though GE Additive chief Mohammad Ehteshami isn't done, he said, "Our goal is to get into all of these."
  • 3D Printed parts are in production for some airliner engines, including the fuel nozzles on the CFM Leap (video above) which are five times more durable than the previous model partly because they are 3D Printed as a single part rather than 20 individual parts.
  • More than 35% of the ATP engine parts for the new Cessna Denali will be 3D Printed - 855 conventional parts will be reduced to 12 printed parts, which include the sumps, bearing housings, frames, exhaust case, combustor liner, heat exchangers and stationary flowpath component - GE says the ATP additive components reduce the ATP’s weight by 5% while contributing a 1% improvement in specific fuel consumption.
  • 900 parts on a GE CT7 turboshaft have been replaced by 16 printed parts, achieving a 35-percent weight reduction and making the engine more efficient - GE says the cost of manufacturing a legacy engine could be reduced by 20% using additive methods.

GE says they will manufacture 100,000 additive parts by 2020 and Ehteshami recently told reporters at the Hannover Messe industrial trade fair, "I have a belief that you'll be able to print the whole jet engine."

Here's our take for industrial suppliers

1. These are very exciting advances and clearly 3D Printing of metal parts will become ubiquitous so industrial suppliers need to prepare both to use the technology themselves and expect some of their customers to use it too.

2. It's no accident that early adoption of metal 3D Printing has occurred in the aviation industry - the need for weight reduction, increased fuel efficiency and reliability are obvious. The achievement of those 3 benefits is a sign of things to come across other industries. There are other advantages too, engine and component prototypes can be built much faster yet be more sophisticated designs that are simpler to assemble. Other industries fast applying 3D Metal Printing include the auto industry. In the video below, Christian von Koenigsegg showcases the One:1's patented variable turbo which provides the perfect boost for any RPM level. The turbo is fully 3D Printed, including its mounting threads and the rotating turbines which are simultaneously 3D printed within the chambers of the turbo! Apparently that's a first too!

Credit: /DRIVE Network

3. 3D Printing in metal or any other material starts with a 3D CAD model - no 3D CAD, no 3D Printing! Typically industrial suppliers provide 3D CAD models of their products online to help their customers design accurately and faster using a CAD system. They don't provide them so that customers can 3D Print them! We have a number of recommendations to prevent or discourage 3D Printing of your 3D CAD models. Please review those recommendations in our blog post about protecting your CAD intellectual property, ALLOW 3D PRINTING FOR PROTOTYPING BUT NOT MANUFACTURING!

As always, please let us know what you think by commenting below, or if you'd like to know more about using online 3D CAD models promotionally AND protecting your intellectual property within them, please call us or click one of the buttons below.

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