By Jerry Underwood
Made in Alabama
Gov. Kay Ivey announced that GE Aviation plans to invest $50 million to expand the additive manufacturing operation at its Auburn facility, the aerospace industry’s first site to mass produce a jet engine component using 3-D printing technologies.
As part of the project, GE Aviation will create 60 jobs and install advanced new additive production machines in Auburn, allowing the factory to launch high-volume production of a second engine part using the additive process.
“GE Aviation is at the leading edge of advanced aerospace additive manufacturing, and the company’s expansion plans at the Auburn facility will strengthen its technology leadership position,” Ivey said. “We look forward to seeing where the great partnership between Alabama and GE Aviation will take us both in an exciting future.”
GE has already invested well over $100 million in the landmark Auburn site, which in 2015 began producing a fuel nozzle tip using additive technologies. Last October, the Auburn manufacturing team celebrated production of the 30,000th 3-D printed fuel nozzle tip for the LEAP jet engine.
With the expansion, the Auburn facility will begin mass production of a 3-D printed bracket for the GEnx-2B engine program.
“We’re very excited for this new investment in our additive manufacturing operation here in Auburn,” said GE Aviation’s Auburn plant leader, Ricardo Acevedo.
“Our success thus far is a testament to all the hard-working folks at this facility who are leading the way in advanced manufacturing. The future here is bright, and we’re glad to have such great support from the Auburn community and the state of Alabama.”
Unlike traditional manufacturing methods that mill a slab of metal to produce a part, additive manufacturing grows parts directly from a CAD file using layers of fine metal powder and an electron beam or laser. The technology allows rapid production of highly complex parts, without waste.
At the Auburn facility, GE’s additive processes reduced the number of parts in a single fuel nozzle tip from about 20 pieces previously welded and brazed together to one whole piece. The nozzle tip’s weight was cut by 25 percent.
“Additive manufacturing technologies are revolutionizing how products are being made in many industries, and GE Aviation is helping to drive that revolution in aerospace,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“We welcome GE’s decision to expand AM activities in Auburn because this will solidify the Alabama facility’s position as a hub for next-generation manufacturing techniques.”
The Auburn facility employs around 230 people, with projections for employment to increase to 300 in 2019 before this week’s expansion announcement.
“We’re grateful for GE’s continued investment in our community, and we are proud to be the home of GE Aviation’s leading additive manufacturing facility,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “For years, Auburn has sought after technology-based industries, and this expansion is evidence of the value in that.
“Thanks to the team at GE, Governor Kay Ivey and her staff and all of those involved in bringing about this expansion. We look forward to GE’s further success, fueled in part by a workforce educated right here in Auburn.”
In addition to the Auburn site, GE Aviation in 2018 opened a $200 million factory complex in Huntsville that is the first U.S. production center for unique materials used to manufacture ceramic matrix composites. Their ultra-lightweight properties, along with their ability to withstand extremely high temperatures, make CMCs ideal for applications in jet engines and wind turbines.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.