Expected to be the biggest change to industry in decades, 3-D or "additive" manufacturing is the process of creating a solid object from a digital file, with the computer file specifying the design and dimensions of a good. A machine is programmed to "print" thin layer upon layer of material until it grows the object from the bottom up.
The "ink" in this kind of printer is a metal powder or plastic that is fused by laser and electron beams.
By comparison, traditional manufacturing takes a piece of metal or other material and machines it away to get to the end object.
The still-young 3-D technology promises to change the way products are produced and the way consumers buy products, disrupt supply chains and create new high tech manufacturing jobs in the U.S., local industry experts say. As the costs and capabilities of the technology improve,3-D manufacturing could lead to mass customization of products and replace the decades-old mass production of items or interchangeable parts, they said.
Products and materials once thought impossible can now be "grown,"
"The benefits and the implications are so broad and so deep," said
Moving the technology from the model shop to the production shop,
The 3-D technology allows GE to manufacture fuel nozzles from a more advanced material than traditional methods. The material, cobalt chromium, can withstand temperatures of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, conventional fuel nozzles are made from multiple smaller pieces, whereas a 3-D manufactured nozzle is a single piece that weighs less and has no pieces welded together. 3-D manufacturing also allows the jet engine maker to produce the fuel nozzle with built-in cooling pathways.
The cost of producing the complex fuel nozzle part with the additive process is 20 percent less than a conventionally made nozzle, Liechty said.
"The biggest part of the savings is the direct labor that goes into assembling and inspecting the parts. That in fact speaks to additive being the next Industrial Revolution as well and how it will impact jobs in
"Because of that technology, when we look at our production sites and doing our cost modeling for those, we will be as competitive or actually more competitive in
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