General Electric to spend $1.4 billion on 3-D printing

Local Motors

Germany-based SLM Solutions supplies laser machines for metal-based additive manufacturing in the aerospace sector.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing involves taking digital designs from software and laying horizontal cross-sections to manufacture the physical object. Their 3D-printing technologies enable GE to use a method of inventory management called "just in time" (JIT) manufacturing.

Last February, in a letter to shareholders, GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt promised an earnings boost and payout to shareholders while detailing his vision of a more nimble, technology-based company. Both companies will be put under the umbrella of GE's aviation division.

General Electric recently acquired Shelton-based medical device component company DiSanto Technology, giving GE another site in CT as it moves its headquarters out of the state.

GE said it will acquire Swedish Arcam and German SLM Solutions Group for $1.4 billion, with premiums of 37% and 53%, respectively. Furthermore, it also expects to save around $3-5 billion through cost control over the next 10 years, through the 3D business's integration across its portfolio. More than 11,000 LEAP engines are on order with up to 20 fuel nozzles in every engine, thus setting the stage for sustainably high and long-term additive production at GE Aviation's Auburn, Alabama, manufacturing plant.

Arcam, founded in 1996 and based in Sweden near the city of Gothenburg, invented an electron beam melting machine used in the aerospace and orthopedic implant industry.

The two aforementioned companies supply additive manufacturing equipment that is expected to add value to GE's existing 3D printing portfolio. One of Arcam's largest customers is GE Aviation. It also helped to create new services applications across the company, and earn 346 patents in powder metals alone. "Parts are also being designed in GE Power, Oil & Gas, Healthcare and across GE's services businesses", Joyce said.

Since FY10, General Electric invested approximately $1.5 billion in additive manufacturing technology and aims to maintain substantially with growth in product demand. It was the first engine containing 3D printed parts to receive "simultaneous type certification by the FAA and its European counterpart, EASA". Moreover, it says it wants to be the leading "digital industrial company".