How 3-D Printing Fits Into Advanced Manufacturing at General Electric Company

In an effort to keep up with booming aviation demand, General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) has pledged to invest more than $3.5 billion between 2013 and 2017 to expand its advanced manufacturing facilities. Part of this investment will be directed toward General Electric's ambitions to 3-D print up to 45,000 fuel nozzles a year for its upcoming LEAP jet engine.

General Electric has taken a liking to 3-D printing in recent years because it invites design possibilities that allow it to create fundamentally better products over conventional manufacturing methods. For instance, a 3-D printed jet engine fuel nozzle is five times stronger and 25% lighter than its conventionally manufactured counterpart, and is 3-D printed as one finished part instead of the 18 it would normally need with conventional manufacturing.

In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller asks Stephan Biller, Chief Manufacturing Scientist at General Electric, where 3-D printing fits into the advanced manufacturing picture. Going forward, General Electric investors should continue to monitor how General Electric pushes the boundaries of 3-D printing and advanced manufacturing to determine if it can gain a competitive advantage.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Steve Heller: "Advanced manufacturing" covers a lot of different topics. In your opinion, professionally, what is your take on where 3-D printing, additive manufacturing, fits into advanced manufacturing?

Stephan Biller: When I think of advanced manufacturing, I think of two parts. One is product enabling; the other one is cost reducing and improving agility, and throughput, and quality, and so forth.

Additive manufacturing [3-D printing] actually fits into both, but it's mostly, I would say, product enabling. We can make parts we have never been able to make before. We [General Electric] can now reduce the number of parts in that fuel nozzle, I think, from over 30 to just a couple. Those are really amazing changes within manufacturing, that additive manufacturing [3-D printing] enables.


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