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GE Unveils Two Challenges on 3-D/Additive Manufacturing


GE90-115B aircraft engine

GE90-115B aircraft engine (General Electric Co.)

General Electric Company is holding two challenges that seek ideas and solutions from the science and engineering communities on three-dimensional printing applied to manufacturing. The company unveiled the competitions yesterday at the 2013 RAPID conference on additive manufacturing — a generic name for industrial 3-D printing — in Pittsburgh. Both challenges have an initial deadline of 26 July.

The 3-D Printing Production Quest challenge asks contestants to offer ideas for applying 3-D printing to produce complex parts with a high degree of precision, the type of items often found in medical imaging and other industries with demanding specifications. GE envisions the parts being made using high-density and refractory metals highly resistant to heat and wear, and having wall thicknesses down to 150 microns, with tolerances +/- 15 microns.

The specifications include consistent and parallel walls, with little or no warping, as well as positioned 1 millimeter apart, with tolerances of +/- 25 microns. The proposed parts must also be able to withstand conditions that exert acceleration forces as high as 80g.

The competition is being conducted by the online engineering community Nine Sights in two phases: capabilities and prototypes. The capabilities phase will select 10 finalists, with each finalist receiving $5,000 in prize money and support for producing the prototype in phase 2, according to supplied CADs, specifications, and fabrication materials. The deadline for capabilities phase submissions is 26 July.

Each of the 10 finalists, announced in October 2013, will compete for one of three $50,000 prizes, based on their submitted prototypes. Entries, prepared by January 2014, will be evaluated for geometric precision, as well as overall mass and volume. Winners, announced in March 2014, will also have an opportunity to collaborate further with GE.

The 3-D Printing Design Quest seeks additive manufacturing solutions for a specific part: the brackets used to load and unload jet engines on aircraft. While the brackets need to support the wieight of the engine during loading and unloading operations, they stay with the engine, even when mounted including in flight.

GE is seeking a solution using 3-D printing to meet the specific handling needs of the jet engine brackets. The company says today’s brackets, made with conventional technologies, are designed for compatibility with a number of different parts, and thus are not optimized for weight or performance. With additive manufacturing, GE hopes to design and produce lighter-weight parts that do not sacrifice performance.

The Design Quest challenge is being conducted by the engineering design community GrabCAD, and like the Production Quest challenge, has two phases: design and test. In the design phase, competitors will submit CAD design files by 26 July that propose parts fitting in the original part envelope requirements. The specifications cover materials, service temperature, minimum wall thickness, engine weight, interfaces, load conditions, and yield strength.

The top 10 entries in the design phase will each win $1,000, and have their designs 3-D printed and tested in the second phase of the challenge that runs from August to November 2013. The top eight entries that meet the test criteria with the lowest mass will divide a prize pool of $20,000, with individual prizes ranging from $7,000 to $1,000.

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