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UpFront: At The Cutting Edge, Cutting Optional

 Sarah A. Webster





By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief

Last year, for our annual Emerging Technologies issue, we demonstrated how 3D printing was moving into mainstream manufacturing by showcasing a Nike football cleat, with a laser-sintered plate, on the cover. That athletic shoe, however, was only for limited production, for top athletes.

This June, we’re taking it up a notch—thanks to GE Aviation and the fast pace at which additive manufacturing (AM) is building up its resume, a topic covered in this month’s feature story by Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers and Associates (Fort Collins, CO).

GE Aviation’s fuel nozzle for the LEAP engine is truly groundbreaking, a word we don’t like to toss around casually here at Manufacturing Engineering.

First of all, GE Aviation is planning to use AM, more specifically direct metal laser melting (DMLM), to make 30,000 of the nozzles annually for its LEAP engine. The nozzle design, which was only possible because of the design freedom that AM allows, consolidated 18 parts into one, making the part 25% lighter and five times more durable than the previous fuel nozzle. That means GE Aviation is building a high-volume, critical part using a 3D printing technique that will only open the door for more parts. In fact, GE estimates that it will manufacture more than 100,000 parts with AM processes by 2020. For that reason, the nozzle is fitting for the cover of our annual Emerging Technologies issue.

And while AM is certainly disruptive to traditional, subtractive manufacturing techniques, it would be foolish to think they are going away anytime soon. In this month's NewsDesk, for example, we preview DMG MORI's newest hybrid additive-subtractive machine, which shows why the processes are actually so complementary, rather than competitive.

What's more, traditional manufacturing techniques are becoming more powerful and efficient than ever before. Take gear manufacturing, which hasn’t substantially changed in decades. In changes that are truly symbolic of the way manufacturing is becoming ever more sophisticated, gear making is being streamlined in a variety of creative new software-enabled ways, which are outlined in a feature story this month. To be sure, it’s an exciting time of change in manufacturing. Breakthrough manufacturing technologies will be on display June 9–12 in Detroit at RAPID 2014, the authority event on additive manufacturing and 3D printing, which is being held this year in conjunction with SME’s inaugural THE BIG M event, which showcases technologies and solutions that are shaping the future of manufacturing. We hope to see you there!


This article was first published in the June 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.  

Published Date : 6/1/2014

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