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General Electric focuses on 3D printing

September 7, 2016

The US conglomerate purchased two European companies for $1.4 billion (€1.2 billion).General_Electric_logo_svg

Ars Technica reported on the acquisitions, which saw General Electric (GE) buy Swedish-based Arcam AB and German company SLM Solutions Group, having spent $1.5 billion (€1.3 billion) on 3D printing in the last six years. GE’s reasoning for the Arcam acquisition is that the Swedish company “invented the electron beam melting machine for metal-based additive manufacturing and also produces advanced metal powders”.

SLM Solutions meanwhile “produces laser machines for metal-based additive manufacturing”, and both companies “have histories of doing business in the aerospace and healthcare industries” as well as “the energy and automotive industries”. According to the Wall Street Journal, GE’s CEO of Aviation David Joyce was quoted as saying that the company’s jet engine business “has been the primary outlet” for 3D printing, with the plan to use it “more frequently” in power turbines and medical equipment.

The news outlet added that GE “expected to purchase” around 1,000 new 3D printers in the next 10 years, and by “bringing the two firms in-house” could cut costs by $3 billion (€2.6 billion) to $5 billion (€4.4 billion) because the technology “could reduce design and material costs”. In future, GE could also “potentially become a supplier of industrial 3D printing machines and materials” as a result of the acquisitions.

Ars Technica added that 3D printing “is favoured in certain kinds of industrial production” because it can be “used to create parts that are much lighter”, though “at the same time” it can “also take longer for a 3D printer to make parts than a more traditional process would take”. As a result, many companies “employ 3D printing at a prototyping stage but dispense with it for production-ready items”, and GE aims to make the process faster “by at least two to three times over the next few years”.

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