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3D Printing to Accelerate, GE Executive Says

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

PITTSBURGH — The pace of 3D printing adoption will accelerate, a General Electric Co. executive said during an address at RAPID + TCT today.

“We really believe it will be a revolution, not an evolution,” said Philippe Cochet, chief productivity officer for GE (Boston). “We think it’s going to take place faster than everybody thinks.”

GE last year announced the acquisitions of Concept Laser (Lichtenfels, Germany) and Arcam AB (Mölndal, Sweden).

GE controls Concept after agreeing in October to buy an initial 75% stake in the German company, with plans to acquire the rest over an undisclosed number of years. The Boston company turned to Concept Laser after a previously announced deal with SLM Solutions fell through.

The acquisitions are part of a broader GE strategy of embracing additive manufacturing.

“We’re preparing all of our factories to be ready for additive,” Cochet said.

GE, he said, is assessing how well the factories have done in adopting lean manufacturing and digital technology. The executive said both are necessary to implement 3D printing.

“If you don’t have lean processes…you will print waste,” Cochet said. “We believe additive and digital go hand in hand.”

GE has more than 500 factories globally. Last year, seven were designed as “Brilliant Factories” that combine lean manufacturing, digital and 3D printing. That figure is now up to 17, he said during the speech.

The company became involved with additive manufacturing when it developed a 3D-printed fuel nozzle for aircraft engines. Since then it has developed its Advanced Turboprop engine, which reduces the number of parts from 855 to 12. GE has also targeted selling 10,000 3D printing machines in 10 years.

“It’s really here,” Cochet said, “and we have to be part of it.”

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