There is no doubt GE is serious about 3D metal printing.
The massive company has been experimenting with 3D metal printing for use in aerospace for several years, and once they determined it was a useful technology, they did not hold back.
They purchased two 3D metal printer manufacturers, Arcam and Concept Laser, and then began working on their own 3D metal printers that likely address the needs of their other manufacturing arms quite directly.
When they acquired Arcam and Concept Laser, the thought was these two operations would be able to grow significantly by leveraging GE’s huge network of clients, business processes, facilities and most importantly their investment cash. That seems to be playing out.
GE has opened up some new Additive Manufacturing Centers in various locations to provide regional access to 3D metal printing technology – and implicitly creating new machines sales in the process.
Now they’ve taken two more steps that should enhance their position in 3D metal printing.
First, their Arcam line has a new addition: the Arcam EBM Spectra H. This new machine, which will be publicly shown at RAPID this week, includes a larger build volume and most importantly a much higher operating temperature. Arcam says the machine can melt materials at temperatures “exceeding 1000C”. This means the EBM-based machine can work with new high temperature materials, such as titanium aluminide.
I’m wondering if this high temperature technology will make its way into other Arcam equipment, or indeed other GE 3D printer lines. If 3D printed components in high temperature metals turn out to be desirable, this could be the case.
But that’s not all. GE has also introduced something they call “AddWorks”. It’s their new “additive consulting team”, whose role is to ensure the success of those using GE 3D metal printing equipment in real life situations.
Addworks is a very good move. With the explosion of interest in 3D metal printing, there is no shortage of new participants whose knowledge of 3D metal printing best practices may be limited. The accessibility of AddWorks staff to these organizations could help tilt their purchase decisions towards GE equipment.
And for those already using 3D metal printing technology, there is always something new to learn from experienced consultants.