Novel manufacturing technology could revolutionize industries, scientists say Businesses are becoming increasingly confident that a new manufacturing technique can increase efficiency and slash costs.

Companies invest significantly in manufacturing research and development. For firms that engineer heavy-duty equipment and machinery, improved production techniques can help drive business cost reduction measures, allowing executives to reorganize spend management and drive profit growth.

For businesses such as General Electric, which specializes in the manufacturing of aeronautics equipment, power transmission systems and energy production facilities, among other items, new manufacturing techniques can greatly boost competitiveness. MIT's Technology Review reports that GE – along with scores of other companies – is betting on three-dimensional printing technology as a means of achieving manufacturing cost reductions.

The production of jet engines is currently a precarious and time-consuming process. GE manufactures engines for airline makers such as Boeing, as well as for defense contractors. The U.S. industrial engineering giant spends a significant amount of resources crafting engine components, as they have to be as light as possible – and also incredibly sturdy - as they are sometimes used for decades.

Moreover, as more airlines are implementing cost reduction initiatives and overhauling oil-sourcing procedures, they are demanding that engines and other mechanisms be as light as possible. This has led to a manufacturing quandary of sorts, pitting GE against rivals in a drive to engineer the Holy Grail of engines, ones that are structurally sound and weigh as little as possible.

GE – and a number of its competitors - reckons it has a solution in 3-D printing. Using laser technology, GE carefully carves out the shape of a fuel injector's cross-section in the first step of the production process. The laser is specifically directed at a cobalt-chrome powder, and as a result of the concentrated heat, the powder fuses into a solid form.

Each subsequent blast of the laser creates one ultrathin layer at a time. Ultimately, the threadlike coatings coalesce to form an injector. In traditional manufacturing practices, technicians at GE sometimes weld together tens of pieces of metal to create an injector. 3-D printer technology, on the other hand, is capable of generating fuel injectors that are less expensive to produce and weigh less.

GE engineer Prabhjot Singh asserted the company is confident that 3-D printers will help revolutionize the production of jet engines, but it could also have wide-ranging applicability.

"There's not a day we don't hear from one of the other divisions at GE interested in using this technology," he said.

Research being carried out elsewhere using 3-D printing systems has also produced tantalizing results. At the University of Virginia, mechanical and aeronautical engineering professor David Sheffler helped students design a replica Rolls-Royce jet engine made of plastic using a 3-D printer.

The students' model engine runs on compressed air instead of jet fuel, but the underlying science is the same. In fact, the replica's turbofan jet runs at the same idle speed as the real engine, according to Popular Mechanics.

"We put a strobe light up to it, and the core was spinning 1500 to 2000 rpm," Sheffler affirmed, noting that 3-D printing helped keep costs low – very low.

In total, the research team at UVA spent approximately $1,800 to engineer their imitation engine. Without 3-D printers, it would not have been possible to produce in an academic setting, Sheffler said.

So what does this all mean? A growing number of scientists contend that 3-D printing could help usher in a new era of manufacturing, helping production companies achieve cost reduction quotas. It could also benefit firms that purchase jet engines – and potentially hosts of other products – from such firms, as prices fall precipitously.

Companies across the globe are in a race against time to develop the most efficient 3-D manufacturing technique, and experts assert it is only a matter of time before it becomes a dominant production method.

Share To:

Strategic Sourceror

Post A Comment:

0 comments so far,add yours