General Electric invests $1.4bn in 3D printing

In acquiring two of Europe’s most promising 3D printing companies, US tech giant General Electric hopes to dominate the market for jet engine parts over the next few years

Jet engine parts will be General Electric's main focus in terms of 3D printing

On September 6, General Electric announced that it had acquired two major European 3D printing firms for a total of $1.4bn. The US industry giant agreed to buy Sweden-based Arcam for approximately $680m, along with a successful offer of $762m for Germany’s SLM Solutions.

The acquisitions come as General Electric is looking to amp up its use of 3D printing in the manufacturing of jet engines and cars, following increasing pressure from manufacturers to invest in new digital technologies. As leaders in the rapidly advancing field of 3D printing, pioneering machine-makers Arcam and SLM will significantly support GE in its ambitious aim of printing more than 100,000 jet engine parts by 2020.

Arcam invented the electron beam melting machine, which allows for metal-based 3D printing, and has enjoyed particular success in the aerospace and orthopaedic implant industries.

Lübeck-based SLM Solutions also focuses on metal-based 3D printing, producing laser machines to make this feat possible. The German firm was the first 3D printing company to successfully process reactive metals such as aluminium, and caters primarily to the aerospace, energy and automotive industries.

“We chose these two companies for a reason”, said David Joyce, CEO of GE’s aviation division. “We love the technologies and leadership of Arcam and SML Solutions. They each bring two different, complementary additive technology modalities. Over time, we plan to extend the line of additive manufacturing equipment and products.”

Arcam and SLM will support GE in its ambitious aim of 3D-printing more than 100,000 jet engine parts by 2020

3D printing has been at the forefront of GE’s digital technology mission for several years, with the conglomerate investing approximately $1.5bn in the revolutionary technique between 2010 and 2016.

It is not difficult to appreciate the growing appeal of 3D printing for manufacturers. Given that 3D printed components require less welding and machining than traditionally-manufactured parts, they tend to be are lighter and more durable than their conventional equivalents. Furthermore, 3D parts are essentially ‘grown’ through printing, thus generating far less scrap metal. As 3D printing continues to remove traditional manufacturing restrictions, it may soon establish itself as the industry norm.