The 6th-largest firm, by growth revenue, in the US is starting to take 3D printing very seriously. General Electric (GE) have announced the first two of an on-going series of 3D printing challenges.
The first contest, called 3D Printing Design Quest, asks participants to “completely reimagine” the bracket and hangers, which support critical jet engine components during handling, and make them 30 percent lighter. “You need to understand software and creative design, the unique properties of the printing machines, and meet the functional requirements of the parts like strength and the ability to handle vibrations,” Michael Idelchik, who runs GE’s advanced technologies research says. “If we can make a relatively simple part like the bracket so much lighter, imagine what you could do with complex parts. We would like to see some of the people who enter the challenge to become our suppliers as we launch new products.”
GE and its partner, GrabCAD, will manufacture and test the top 10 designs and the winners will receive $1,000 each. The eight designs that perform the best in tests will divide an additional $20,000 prize pool.
The second quest, called 3-D Printing Production Quest: High Precision and Advanced Manufacturing, asks participants to use 3-D printing to manufacture “highly precise and complex parts” for healthcare. The top 10 entrants will receive $5,000 each and an invite to produce the parts from materials of GE’s choosing. GE and its partner, Nine Sigma, will then select up to three winners who will receive up to $50,000 each. “You have the material, you need a design and a machine that integrates the material, and then you need to control the machine to produce the part,” Idelchik says.
Idelchik says that the time is right for 3-D printing. “How this ecosystem will develop will define how far additive manufacturing will go,” he says. “I believe that we will get some outstanding participants with breakthrough ideas who will like to start a business.”
Three of the top ten Fortune 500 companies, Ford, General Motors and now General Electric, are starting to take 3D printing very seriously which can only be great news for the industry.