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GE Aviation Switches to Metal AM for Four Parts, Cutting Costs by 35%

May 17,2021

AM has been gaining in importance in a number of sectors and especially in aviation for a number of years now. For example, a 3D printed fuel nozzle tip for GE Aviation¡¯s LEAP engine was able to consolidate 20 different parts into one single structure. Similarly, the new turboprop engine combined 855 parts into just 10 3D-printed components, saving both time and money. For this particular project, the company decided to use 3D printing for four parts destined for the LM90000, a land/marine turbine to see if metal additive manufacturing truly could go toe-to-toe with industrial casting. In this case, the answer was a resounding yes, as 3D printing was found to be more efficient, cost-effective and faster than the traditional casting process.

One of the main benefits of switching to metal AM over casting was of course, cost savings. GE Aviation¡¯s additive manufacturing leader Eric Galin noted:  ¡°This is a game-changer. This is the first time we¡¯ve done a part-for-part replacement, and it was cheaper doing it with additive than casting. To make sure we demonstrated cost competitiveness, we had four outside vendors quote the parts, and we still came in lower with additive manufacturing.¡± Of course it has been known for quite a while that 3D printing affords immense savings for manufacturers, but this marks the first time that GE aviation shifted production from investment casting to AM purely based on cost.

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