Arcam's A2X electron beam melting systems, typically used in aerospace applications, are featured in a new additive manufacturing center at the University of Connecticut funded by Pratt & Whitney. (Source: Arcam)
Aviation industries are shifting from traditional manufacturing to Additive Manufacturing. Genaral Electric have also shifted to AM. GE is preparing to produce a fuel nozzle for a new aircraft engine by printing the part with lasers rather than casting and welding the metal.
Ann, this is an interesting trend in and it is typical of new technologies. It is also good to see it happening here. As AnandaY points out, Pratt & Whitney's biggest competitor is also starting to use this technology. Actually, GE is using a lot more ceramics and polymers in their engines, and that manufacturing is being brought in house as well.
Perhaps, as with the semiconductor industry, this will become a more standardized technology in the future. The trend in semiconductors is to seperate fabrication (fab) from design. On the other hand, in the early days of the insustry, it was fab that was the compettitive advantage. That is what allowed Intel to keep its lead for so long. On the other hand, Intel is now getting into the foundry business.
AnandY, thanks for that detailed info on what GE Aviation is doing in its AM efforts.
As we mention in the article on the Lux Research 3D/AM report http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=262205 last fall GE Aviation acquired Morris Technologies http://www.geaviation.com/press/other/other_20121120.html, which was a 3D printing service bureau that produced mostly aerospace engine components.
Aviation, with its relatively low production volumes, seems to be a logical place to apply this technology. I do find it interesting, however, that the parts still require a wire EDM process after the fact.
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
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