GE acquires additive manufacturing technology

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General Electric (GE) has secured in-house additive manufacturing technology to satisfy a backlog of more than 8,000 end-use components created with the process for the CFM International Leap engine.

The engine manufacturer says that it will also develop parts made with the process for the forthcoming GE9X engine and is considering the technology for certain GE Passport 20 engines components as well.

GE will add the capability by acquiring sister companies Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing. The firms, based outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, have already created parts for the Leap model.

The acquisition will help it prepare for growing engine production rates in the next five years, says GE. Immediate demand is focused on the CFM International Leap engine, manufactured by both GE and Snecma through a joint venture. The engine has more than 4,000 orders ahead of its 2016 entry into service. The Leap -1A and -1C variants to power the Airbus A320neo and Comac C919 aircraft are scheduled to enter service in 2016, with the Leap-1B for the 737 Max the following year in 2017.

Additive manufacturing involves layering cross sections of material and melting it with a laser to create a part. The company says that the process generates less waste than traditional fabrication methods and typically creates lighter parts. Weight reduction could be between 20% to 50% per part depending on the specific component, says GE.

Morris and Rapid Quality Manufacturing have developed two separate components for the Leap engine, the manufacturer says. One is for the combustor, and the other for the fuel nozzle. CFM's development cores for the Leap programme are running with these components in place, it adds.

GE also plans to create parts with additive manufacturing for the GE9X, the engine that it is developing for the Boeing 777X. That engine is in the conceptual stage and undergoing core rig testing, it says. The manufacturer is also considering the technology for certain parts on the Passport 20, which will power the Bombardier Global 7000 and 8000 ultra-long-range business jets.

It is still unclear which parts of the components will be made through the additive process, but GE is exploring those along the lines of stator vanes and stationary air foils. The manufacturer says that it will focus on creating stationary parts first before applying the technology to moving parts later on.

The newly-acquired facilities measure 40,000 square feet (3,716 square metres) and contain 21 additive manufacturing machines to be used in applications for aviation as well as other industries. GE has the flexibility to scale up machines if needed during the ramp up set to occur in 2015.