Cummins Inc., a manufacturer of engines and power generation systems, has become one of the first companies to adopt GE Additive’s metal binder jet 3D printing technology. The company, which recently invested in a new GE Additive system, plans to accelerate its use of AM in its production process.
The recent integration of GE’s binder jet AM technology signals Cummins’ intention to implement Industry 4.0 technologies to improve automation, cloud computing and other elements in its workflow. Additive manufacturing will initially be used to produce low-volume parts, though Cummins intends to ramp up production once it figures out how to best integrate the technology for high-volume manufacturing.
“By investing in 3D metal additive technologies from GE Additive, we are investing in Cummins and our customers,” said Tim Millwood, Vice President of Global Manufacturing at Cummins Inc. “This technology has the potential to provide our customers with a quicker, lower-cost production method that ultimately uses less energy, which means we can better serve our customers and reduce our environmental impact.”
GE Additive’s binder jet technology, first revealed in 2017, uses a print head to selectively deposit a liquid binding agent across a bed of metal powder, layer by layer, until a form is built up. Compared to more common laser-based 3D printing techniques, binder jetting can achieve print speeds from 60 to 100 times faster.
If you’re wondering why there hasn’t been more buzz about GE Additive’s binder jet technology, it’s because it is still brand new. The AM giant is currently scaling the technology, first into pilot lines, then into a complete factory solution. As a strategic partner, Cummins has early access to the technology. Elsewhere, the binder jet system is expected to become commercially available in 2021.
Initially, Cummins’ binder jet systems will be located at GE Additive’s lab in Cincinnati, Ohio, where teams from Cummins will be co-located at the lab. Later this year, the printers will be relocated to one of the company’s facilities. Once delivered, the binder jet systems will join Cummins’ two existing Concept Laser M2 DMLM printers—one of which is located at the Cummins’ Technical Center in Columbus, Indiana and the other is installed at its R&D Center in San Luis Potosi, Mexico along with two other metal 3D printers.
Cummins recently achieved a milestone on its AM journey: the power generation and engine manufacturer recently sold its first 3D printed metal part. The part, a low-volume bracket without a current supplier, was printed on the Concept Laser M2. With access to GE Additive’s binder jet technology, Cummins hopes to unlock medium- and large-sized parts as well as scaled production.
“In early 2019, we launched the beta testing and partner program and deliberately sought out partners and key customers, like Cummins, who are committed to mass production,” said Jake Brunsberg, Binder Jet Product Line Leader at GE Additive. “As Cummins celebrates its 100th year, it remains steadfast in its commitment to being at the cutting edge of innovation. Above all, we want to partner with companies whose businesses and customers will benefit tremendously from binder jet technologies.”