General Electric (GE) is expanding the uses for 3D printers and expects the emerging
technology to "touch" more than half of its manufacturing in 20 years.
a model of a GE Jet engine made using "direct metal laser"
3D printing technology (Source: IBD, fair use)
With business segments in aviation, energy technology, medical equipment and home appliances, the industrial conglomerate's increasing adoption of "additive manufacturing" could shake up printer makers 3D Systems (DDD), Stratasys (SSYS) and ExOne (XONE) as well as U.S. industry overall.
Less than 10% of GE's manufacturing uses 3D printing in some form today, though that share should rise to 20% to 25% in 10 years and 50% or more in 20 years, the company told IBD.
"I'm not saying that 25% of all parts will be 3D-printed, but that 3D printing will touch it in some way," Christine Furstoss, GE's technical director of manufacturing and materials technologies, told IBD in an interview.
"Maybe it's the tool that we are using or the early prototypes we make," Furstoss said. "We are committed to driving it in as many areas as we can."
This is disruptive technology indeed, with all sorts of implications. (Unfortunately, not all of them are good, this can for instance be used to make weapons.)
Where this comes in, is that via digital technology, we are again moving to Industrial Civilisation 2.0 where a database of open designs with a cluster of modular general purpose manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, can make a small town or an island with reasonable access, largely independent of having to import basic goods.
That points to an age where the crucial issue will be to have skilled people, not so much heavy industry. (Just think, the parts of a tractor, bus or truck are by and large fairly small and amenable to such techniques. And to others such as numerically controlled milling or lathes.)
So, where is development headed, and where should education go to keep up, in an age where digital productivity technologies are being repeatedly revolutionary and transformational?
Let us ponder . . . END
PS: I earlier inadvertently hit publish with a very incomplete article, sorry.