Five transformative effects Advanced Manufacturing is…

Five transformative effects Advanced Manufacturing is…

Jul 11, 2016

“Five transformative effects Advanced Manufacturing is having on the power industry”

By Steve Bolze, President & CEO at GE Power

GE’s founder Thomas Edison once said: ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work’. Most people resist change, but to innovate, we must force ourselves into new ways of working, no matter how much effort it may seem.

GE has embraced this philosophy, and nowhere is this more evident than our new Advanced Manufacturing Works (AMW) facility, opening today in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s the embodiment of our GE Store, taking our smartest minds and technologies from every part of our business to drive innovation, growth, and ground-breaking customer outcomes.

Customers determine our success, and increasingly they challenge us to help them deliver more value in today’s fast shifting market. This means getting new concepts and innovations to production quicker.  With our new AMW facility we’ll be able revolutionize the way GE Power designs, improves, and creates products. Here are five key examples:

Connecting people to machines

The AMW team is a working laboratory for our GE Power advanced manufacturing method. At the heart of this approach is the union of the physical and the digital – human and machine – into a seamless thread of systems, people, and data facilitating near-instantaneous information sharing.

Just like a Fitbit-style wearable health monitor, in a Brilliant Factory (and our customer environments) we monitor our machines’ health. Using sensors, data analytics and the Industrial Internet, we better understand the well-being of our factories and products.

Additive manufacturing – accelerating innovation

Additive manufacturing, the industrial version of 3D printing, enables speed to market by making innovative, rapid product prototyping and initial production possible. Our AMW facility uses additive manufacturing to manufacture test components of new design ideas for our gas turbines, accelerating their development. Additive manufacturing allows us to optimize a design concept through 10 or more iterations in just a few months, with production parts capable of following just four months later. Using traditional techniques it would take 10-12 months longer.

Speed doesn’t mean “easy” here.  Metal additive machines, although fast and powerful, are in their early days; yet gas turbine technology requires aerospace quality and precision.  In that four month process modification of over 200 variables in equipment hardware and software process parameters are reviewed to deliver repeatable, acceptable quality in the final components.  But, true to Edison’s spirit, GE doesn’t shy from the hard work needed to continually improve our products.

Changing the way the industry works – the world of the robot

AMW will pave the way for a new era of manufacturing by applying new methods of automation and robotics, working safely alongside humans. Contrary to common believe, robots won’t be replacing humans. Automation will tackle the non-value added work; work we refer to as the “four Ds” – Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult and Dull. With this work detached from people’s jobs, more time can be spent on areas where humans excel; entrepreneurship, creative or personnel management.

Advancing the state-of-the-art with new materials

The introduction of new materials means we can do old things in new and better ways. Learning from our colleagues in GE Aviation, at AMW we are using a new and unusual material called ceramic matrix composite (CMC).  CMC can withstand higher temperatures and therefore doesn’t need as much parasitic cooling, leading to greater fuel efficiency and more power for our customers. Through our work with this material, we have learned even more – lessons we’ve passed back to Aviation through the GE store.

A (laser) beam of hope for efficiency

Due to the extreme heat industrial technologies operate in, cooling is important for keeping some components functioning.  Specifically, making tiny cooling holes in turbine blades, and leaking air through them and over the outside of the blade to keep them cool. Designers have long known that being able to drill cooling holes at sharp angles with unusual shapes could make turbine cooling more efficient. Current processes are limited, meaning we weren’t able to make turbine blades in exactly the shapes required.  The AMW team saw a chance to adopt a special technique from the diamond industry, and we’re experimenting with Laser MicroJet (LMJ) technology to meet this challenge.  The LMJ is a one-of-a-kind system that embeds a laser beam inside of a stream of water. This will create a gas turbine with greater output and improved efficiency in the future.

Advanced manufacturing will transform how we work and how we serve our customers. Our commitment to advanced manufacturing will accelerate how we go to market and how we innovate new products. Today, we take an important step forward with the opening of our AMW facility. I look forward to keeping you posted on our journey.

For more information on GE’s Advanced Manufacturing link here:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *