An Accidental Journey into Additive Manufacturing
September 5, 2017
Tomorrow marks one year since GE announced their plan to purchase two leading metal Additive Manufacturing companies. It has been coined the “headline heard ‘round the world,” generating a considerable buzz in the manufacturing space. Over the past 12 months, the world has seen how passionate GE is about the transformative power of Additive Manufacturing.
You have likely heard the GE Additive story before: Mohammad Ehteshami, former Vice President at GE Additive provides insight into GE's bold ambitions for Additive Manufacturing often. And he tells the story well.
Former Arcam CEO Magnus Rene and former Concept Laser CEO Frank Herzog also share in the excitement and allure that is found in metal AM. Both decorated veterans in the industry, they have brought valuable and unique insights from Europe across the pond to North America and worldwide.
Together, I’d say the three make a strong story-telling team.
I spent a week in mid-August at GE's Additive Technology Center (ATC) in Cincinnati, Ohio with several of my fellow Arcam, Concept Laser and GE Additive team members. Mohammad set the tone for the meeting by giving us talking points on why GE chose to take this journey into Additive. This made me think of my own story, my own journey. I've shared it with some, but not with all.
A captivating story can evolve into a narrative that can evolve into a shared sense of mission. And look at any great business - its mission most commonly drives its strategy. That is the power of a good story.
I do believe my (accidental) Additive journey tells a good story, so I often feel compelled to share it with others. I hope you find it influential; perhaps it may also inspire you to write and share your own.
It was likely an average Wednesday morning in the AeroTurbine sales pit - a full inbox and a long to-do list for the day. A colleague of mine recently read an article on SpeedNews about a division of GE, GE Avio, who was 3d printing titanium aluminide turbine blades using Arcam's Electron Beam Melting (EBM). The four of us in the sales pit turned our chairs around in unison when we heard the TiAl blades were 50% lighter than nickel-based alloys, and GE could fabricate eight turbine blades in just three days from one machine. We couldn't believe what we were hearing.
I remember the conversation between all of us as if it happened just yesterday. "Watch this company, Arcam. And watch this technology, Additive Manufacturing. This is going to be big. This is going to be big."
For the next several years, I found myself on the Arcam website from time to time, reading up on the latest news and successes of the company. Strong sales growth, adoption of the technology by Honeywell and GKN, rapid growth of powder production through AP&C in Montreal. I would always take time to visit the Arcam careers page in hopes of seeing an opening that fit my profile. Arcam stayed fresh in my mind.
By 2016, I had moved to Phoenix and into an Account Management role with Honeywell Aerospace, supporting aftermarket sales of both used-serviceable and new parts to major airlines in North America. My team received a request from an airline for a Honeywell part that had not been ordered for over 20 years. The airline needed the part quickly, but there was a problem in finding all the tooling fixtures necessary to produce the final assembly. The tooling supplier could only offer the fixture on a really long lead time. It seemed for every three steps forward, we took two steps back.
Then I remembered Arcam.
Perhaps there was a way to utilize this technology to our benefit? A quick intranet search led me to Don Godfrey, Engineering Fellow and AM guru at Honeywell Aerospace Phoenix.
After various meetings and several hours of analysis, a cross-functional team of 10+ people from four different global Honeywell sites formed to find a solution.
· Account Manager and a Customer Business Manager from Honeywell Aerospace Phoenix;
· Several Senior Product Engineers from Honeywell Aerospace Mexicali;
· Several Advanced Manufacturing Engineers from Honeywell Aerospace Shanghai;
· and an Engineering Fellow & his team from Honeywell Aerospace Phoenix and Honeywell Aerospace Bangalore
combined forces and came up with a plan to use old drawings to print needed welding fixtures in record time - approximately 72 hours.
Several months lead-time reduced to 72 hours, thanks to Additive Manufacturing.
This was the pivotal moment in my career that spoke to me loud and clear – it was time to join the AM revolution. Several days later, I sent my resume to Arcam.
September 5, 2017
It's now been a year and a half since joining Arcam (now GE).
The sunset fleet of aircraft Honeywell was supporting is still flying the friendly skies. I am honored to have been part of this forward-thinking group of individuals, and always try to share this success with others who are not harnessing the full power of metal AM yet.
Additive Manufacturing allows one to focus on process improvement and efficiency engineering; it provides an opportunity to be innovative, timesaving and economical. Metal AM allows metal parts to be built without a need for traditional tooling and with few limitations in geometry. It is complementary to traditional subtractive methods, and can be easily integrated into an existing production workspace.
AM Professionals can assist you with a thorough analysis of current production lifecycles to reveal gaps where metal AM could prove helpful with reduction in development time, production steps, costs and use of material.
Now that I’ve shared my own, how can I help you to write your additive success story?
As always, I welcome any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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