I believe, along with a growing number of leaders around the world, that 3D printing will change the way things are produced more in this century than the industrial revolution did over the last 300 years.
Consider these two recent events:
A little over a year ago, a young Indonesian man named Arie Kurniawan participated in an open innovation challenge hosted by the global industrial company GE. The goal was to redesign the bracket that attaches a jet engine to an airplane wing. Arie’s design beat out over 1,000 other submissions, which was surprising to almost everyone. For one, Arie had absolutely no experience whatsoever with industrial manufacturing. None. Secondly, he had used a completely new design technique enabled by industrial 3D printing technology. But Aries’s bracket worked perfectly. It passed every one of the rigorous end use industrial tests for durability, stress and reliability.
And it weighed 83% less than the part it replaced.
At about the same time, halfway around the world, GE’s radical new fuel injection system for a jet engine first emerged from a industrial 3D metal printer. The previous system had 21 separate parts, which needed to be produced, shipped to the same location, and then assembled. The new 3D printed system had only one. It was five times stronger, and contributed to an increase in fuel efficiency of an astonishing 15%! That a savings of over $1 million dollars per year on fuel. On every single airplane that uses the new system.
Reports of these two startling events quickly spread throughout GE and beyond. While certainly no one expected these single parts to have an immediate impact on the company’s overall financial performance, the implications of these two events were disarmingly clear.
- If 3D printing enabled individual parts to be redesigned with such massive improvements in efficiency, what possibilities existed for the companies’ other millions of parts?
- If someone with no training in industrial production could so impact a company stocked with top engineers, what were the implications for the current global workforce?
- If the new technology could reduce 21 component parts to one, what did this mean for the future of GE’s longstanding parts producers?
- If these parts could now be cost effectively produced in the United States, what did this mean for the global supply chain?
Even bigger, what if these new technologies could be used to redesign not only a few parts, but an entire airplane? Could we envision reducing the entire weight of a plane by 5%, 10%, even 20%? An outcome like this would not simply result in a financial uplift for companies like GE—it would change the economics of an entire industry!
In fact, it would change every industry.
by Rick Smith | JUN 15, 2015 @ 2:05 PM