GE announces Auburn as site for $50 million cutting-edge 3D printing operation
FARNBOROUGH, England — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced from England on Tuesday that GE Aviation plans to bring high volume additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, to its facility in Auburn. This facility will be the first of its kind to mass produce additive components for the jet propulsion industry.
“GE Aviation’s decision to launch a 3D printing initiative at its Auburn plant speaks volumes about the ability of an Alabama workforce to carry out cutting-edge manufacturing,” Bentley said. “This is tomorrow’s technology, and we are proud to say it will be performed right here in Alabama.”
GE will invest $50M in the existing 300,000-square-foot facility to prepare for the additional work. Upon completion, GE’s investment will total more than $125M since 2011.
“We are delighted that GE Aviation has chosen Auburn, Alabama for this advanced technology manufacturing operation. We are partners and look forward to many years of a fruitful relationship,” Auburn Mayor Bill Hamm said.
Equipment installation will begin in late 2014 and production of additive components will begin in 2015. By the end of 2015, the plant could have as many as 10 printing machines with the potential to grow to more than 50 printers and occupy a third of the facility at full capacity.
The facility will also continue to manufacture precision, super-alloy machined parts for jet engines.
Since opening in April 2013, GE has hired more than 70 people. The additional work will accelerate hiring at the Auburn facility. Based on current demand for its jet engines, GE expects to hire 300 people when the plant is at full ramp-up later this decade.
“This investment is a testament to GE’s commitment to this advanced technology,” said Joe Markiewicz, GE’s Auburn plant leader. “The Auburn team will play a vital role in the next-generation of aircraft engines, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
The specific component to be built in the new Auburn facility is a fuel nozzle. This component will be on the best-selling LEAP jet engine, which will power the new Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC (China) C919 aircraft.
Auburn will also have capacity to take on additional component work when new technologies are developed.
The introduction of additive manufacturing represents a significant technology breakthrough for GE and the jet propulsion industry. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods that mill or cut away from a slab of metal to produce a part, 3D printing “grows” parts using layers of fine metal powder and an electron beam or laser. The result is complex, fully dense parts without the waste, manufactured in a fraction of the time it would take using other methods.
To prepare for this new work, GE will partner with local universities and community colleges. The facility will continue its partnership with Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) and Southern Union State Community College (SUSCC) for pre-employment training programs. To develop a pipeline of young talent, GE has worked with Auburn University and Tuskegee University to create internship and co-op opportunities for students.
“We’re excited to expand our partnership with a global aviation leader to help enable the potential of additive manufacturing in advanced jet engine production,” said Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue. “We look forward to working with GE Aviation experts on the workforce, research and technology requirements for high-volume production of this critical engine component.”
GE Aviation employs approximately 40,000 people and operates more than 80 facilities around the world. GE Aviation is a world-leading provider of jet engines, components and integrated systems for commercial and military aircraft.
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