GE Aviation is investing in five GE Additive Concept Laser M Line metal Additive Manufacturing machines, four of which are scheduled to be installed at GE Aviation’s Additive Technology Center (ATC) in West Chester, Ohio, USA, in 2022. The fifth AM machine will be installed at Avio Aero’s Turin site in Italy to support the serial production of AM components for the GE Catalyst turboprop engine during 2022.
Once installed at the GE Aviation ATC, two of the M Line AM machines are expected to be dedicated to aluminium alloy, and the third and fourth to cobalt chrome and nickel alloy 718. This is expected to add additional manufacturing capacity to GE Aviation’s existing AM infrastructure in its development facility.
The M Line is an advanced production machine that is said to be suited to experienced metal Additive Manufacturing users who have started to scale production volumes. Its stitching capability enables customers with large part size demand to increase productivity and reduce production costs.
“The time and work we have collectively invested with our GE Additive colleagues to define, shape and then iron out the specification and functionality of the M Line means we now have a scalable solution that can build large components in a high-volume production environment, while meeting our cost entitlement goals,” stated Chris Philp, site leader for GE Aviation’s ATC.
Throughout the M Line’s three-year maturation phase, GE Additive teams have worked collaboratively with GE Aviation and other aerospace and medical sector customers who are already in serial additive production, to beta test the M Line AM machine. This phase is said to have resulted in more than 300 design improvements with additional safety and software features incorporated into the AM machine. Continuous improvement and input from GE Aviation reportedly informed the most critical and fundamental change to the machine – an increase to the build envelope by 54%, to 500 mm x 500 mm x 400 mm – to enable GE Aviation’s progression to the serial production of larger AM parts.
Over the past eighteen months, attention has shifted to materials development for aerospace applications with some of the highest requirements in the industry for part quality in terms of material properties, as well as build-to-build and machine-to-machine stability. GE Additive and GE Aviation ATC teams have partnered to accelerate identifying the materials parameters for aluminium, cobalt-chrome and nickel alloy 718.
“Our goal is to realise the aviation additive industry’s first automation ready production environment,” commented Benito Trevino, general manager – additive integrated product team at GE Aviation. “Once installed, we envisage that our multi-machine approach, with the M Line platform at the heart of production, will help us reduce our lead and print times by over 50%.”
Jan Siebert, general manager – machines & equipment at GE Additive, added, “By fully embracing the versatility of Lean and the spirit of continuous improvement we have evolved the M Line over recent years to be ready for real-world, serial additive production. Our focus is on offering industrial solutions that deliver quality parts, at cost and at scale.”