Everyone knows GE is extremely interested in 3D printing, but there’s yet another way they’re making a lot of money with the technology.
GE’s interest in 3D printing has been in existence for some years, as they’ve spent considerable resources developing methods of 3D printing in metal, primarily for their aerospace operations. 3D printed metal components can be extraordinarily lighter weight, yet provide the same function, and this is critically important in aerospace for obvious reasons.
Once the company figured this out, they began to push the concept strongly, presumably to attract clients to use their services.
But they did something else: they actually purchased TWO 3D metal printer manufacturers, Arcam and Concept Laser, both of which are well regarded in the industry. They even made a play for a THIRD company, SLM Solutions, earlier, but were rebuffed by that company’s shareholders.
Their investment in Arcam and Concept Laser is being leveraged, as both operations seem poised for expansion, perhaps in part due to the large amount of business directed their way by GE directly or indirectly.
So GE is set to make some big cash using, operating and selling 3D printers to the world. But there is another angle they apparently have been using.
One of GE’s many different operations is financing. GE Capital has long been in the business of providing capital for major investments by companies. A typical scenario would be an airline buying, say, a fleet of new aircraft. Those things are quite expensive, and the airline might not be able to afford them outright. Worse, the airline business is ruthless, with razor thin margins, meaning the airline cannot likely generate sufficient funds to pay for the aircraft in any rapid manner.
Enter GE Capital’s financing programs. In the case above, GE Capital would buy the aircraft and then lease them to the airline. The lease payments would be spread over many years and the airline could conceivable (and hopefullY) be able to generate sufficient margin on their sales to handle the lease payments.
In other words, it’s a way of getting access to equipment you can’t yet afford.
But we’ve learned that GE Capital is in fact doing the same thing for 3D metal printing operations.
Think about it: a 3D metal printing service is in many ways similar to an airline: they have to lease very expensive equipment that they would operate for some years, hopefully generating enough cash flow to pay for the lease payments.
And it turns out this is precisely what GE Capital is doing. This means that GE is making money on 3D printing in many ways:
- By using the technology in their own operations to develop highly useful, relatively inexpensive components
- Selling 3D print services to companies who can’t afford to get into the technology
- Selling 3D printers through their new acquisitions
- Selling 3D metal powder materials to everyone acquired with the recent acquisitions
- Getting a cut of other 3D metal printer purchases through financing
It seems that GE is all over the place in 3D printing, doesn’t it?