GE, Illinois Engineering celebrate installation of DMLM system at ARI
Representatives from GE and the University of Illinois gathered Thursday for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the installation of the Concept Laser Mlab 100R direct metal laser melting (DMLM) additive manufacturing system. In September, GE announced that the U of I was one of five worldwide higher education institutions selected to receive the system through the GE Additive Equipment Program. Dr. Magdi Azer, Associate Director of Manufacturing Science at the Illinois Applied Research Institute (ARI), led the winning team. The system is housed at ARI’s light manufacturing facility at Illinois Research Park.
Using lasers to melt layers of fine metal powder, the System creates complex geometries with incredible precision directly from a CAD file. As part of ARI’s shared user facility for light manufacturing, the System will allow Illinois researchers, faculty, and students to gain a better understanding of 3D additive metal manufacturing and its applications first-hand.
The System will also offer the University of Illinois the opportunity to directly engage with industry and other research and development organizations on collaborative projects and technology transfer efforts that fully leverage high-performance additive manufacturing technology.
“The system will transform the manufacturing research and development that takes place at ARI and in the College, opening new avenues for innovation and collaboration with both industry and government,” said Jennifer Bernhard, ARI’s Interim Director.
GE leadership sees the partnership as a critical piece to pioneering the additive industry. Brad Mottier, Vice President and General Manager for Business and General Aviation and Integrated Systems at GE Aviation, shared that it took even the brightest engineers at GE about nine months to switch their minds from thinking about conventional modalities of manufacturing to design organically through additive.
“Getting people to understand how to unleash the opportunity of additive has been a challenge,” said Mottier, the third of now four generations of Illinois graduates. “The fastest way to learn is to put your best and brightest right next to the machine. Things that would have been impossible or at the least very complex with old methods is now easier with additive. For the University of Illinois to put together a winning proposal for a machine like this says a lot about its potential to be a leader in preparing future creative leaders and creating innovative approaches in this growing industry.”
Following the ribbon cutting at ARI’s light manufacturing laboratory facility, representatives from Illinois and GE participated in a panel discussion on the potential of additive in the future of manufacturing.
Behrang Poorganji, Director of Materials at GE Additive, reiterated that the key to future advances in additive manufacturing, in addition to the development of materials explicitly for use in additive processes, is integrating the technology into the foundation of the educational process.
“The biggest challenge is our minds,” Pooganji said. “We cannot think additive unless our engineers, our designers, our manufacturers, even our decision makers have been trained enough to make decisions, to make designs, and to develop things based on this technology. In this regard, the University has a very critical role in the future of this technology.”