General Electric (GE) manufactures, amongst other things, jet engines. To produce components in its newest prototype, the industry giant is turning to 3D printers, putting its considerable weight and technical expertise behind the infant technology.To this point, 3D printing has largely remained the purview of hobbyists and plastic trinket-makers, but GE’s involvement may be a harbinger of a much more significant change brought: the advent of an additive manufacturing revolution. Bloomberg reports:
GE plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to help get machines ready for its purposes, triple the aviation business’s 70-person 3-D printing staff and expand the factory floor fourfold in the coming years. The push would bolster a 3-D industry that consultant Wohlers Associates estimates is poised to almost triple to about $6 billion annually by 2017. […]GE’s embrace of 3-D printing for critical components able to withstand lava-like temperaturesthrows the weight of the world’s largest jet-engine maker behind a process invented in the 1980s and once relied on just to fabricate scale models.
Printing metal in three dimensions is becoming a possibility for hobbyists, as well—a new miniature metal-printing kit can be purchased for $750 on Kickstarter. Combine that with the expiration of several key patents in just a few short months, and you get a picture of a technology beginning to achieve its extraordinarily potential.[3D printer image courtesy of Wikimedia]