3-D Printing: The Sky’s the Limit
While the concept still feels new, three-dimensional printing, a process many of our mem-
bers saw demonstrated at InterGrowth® 2014, has been around for more than a decade.
Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, it is an additive manufacturing technology: Rather
than cutting away at a material, 3-D printers allow for organic creation. 3-D printing software
instructs the machine where to lay material, whether plastic, steel or aluminum, to create a
new structure from scratch.
3-D printing has caught on widely in recent years due in part to advancements in soft-
ware and materials technology. GE, for one, has been investing in and using 3-D printing
since the technology’s early days, says Christine Furstoss, the conglomerate’s global tech-
nology director for manufacturing and materials technologies.
“3-D printing is an exciting area because businesses are at the cusp of learning how to use
it,” Furstoss says.
In its infancy, 3-D printing was used within GE primarily for plastic prototypes; because
the early products it produced lacked geometric fidelity and durability, they weren’t ideal for
end use, she says. All along, however, the philosophy behind the technology has remained
constant: If you can think of it, you can make it.
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