LOUISVILLE, Ky. — July 11, 2013 — (NYSE:GE) — In the Rapid Prototyping Center (RPC) that just opened at GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky., a 3D printing machine quickly lays down layer after layer of plastic resin to create a fabric softener dispenser for a new topload washing machine model. Another machine makes a prototype of a new design of grates for gas ranges that will be used with consumer focus group research. In the past, designing the right part could be very costly and take months to complete. In every aspect of product design and engineering, the RPC accelerates the development process and reduces costs.
In order to achieve the optimum design for the best performance, a part development process can require as many as 20 prototypes, each requiring the creation of a new tool and taking eight to 10 weeks from a computer-generated 3D drawing to the completion for each new prototype to test. Now, with rapid prototyping, or additive manufacturing, the development of each prototype can be condensed from months to days, drastically reducing the overall development cycle by as much as 80 percent and significantly reducing the costs associated with the product development.
“In the fast-paced, highly competitive appliance industry, additive manufacturing gives us the ability to get new, innovative products to market faster, which is key to succeeding in the marketplace,” said Kevin Nolan, vice president of technology at GE Appliances. “This new additive lab makes it easier to trial numerous techniques and more quickly uncover the best solution. RP also allows the engineers to be more creative, take some risk they otherwise wouldn’t because if a design doesn’t work, it didn’t take a lot of time and money.”
The RPC houses rapid prototype printers with a wide variety of printing technologies that can produce workable models in different materials and sizes. Locating 10 printers in one lab will significantly streamline the workflow and allow engineers who support different product lines to maximize use of the various technologies and easily share best practices.
“The RPC has a huge role in advanced manufacturing. In the future, we will expand the functionality from prototyping parts to producing actual parts that will go right into the products. This is especially useful on low-volume production. We won’t have to develop expensive tools to make low-volume parts. We will just print the parts we need,” explained Nolan.
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit www.ge.com/appliances.