GE Healthcare has opened its first 3D printing lab, called the Innovative Design and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center for Europe, in Uppsala, Sweden. The center will use technologies including 3D printing and robotics to speed up the launch of new innovative products for the healthcare industry.
The center combines advanced manufacturing technology such as metal and polymer printers and collaborative robots, or “cobots”, with traditional machining equipment. A key in realizing the advantages of 3D printing is ensuring the technology is considered at the start of the innovation process with Research and Design teams working with advanced manufacturing engineers and in collaboration with customers. The new center in Uppsala will ensure additive expertise is available from the start of product design. Teams will design, test and produce 3D-printed parts for GE Healthcare products and prepare for final transfer to manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D printing can bring significant benefits to manufacturing processes. For example, a 3D printed part can combine 20 parts into a single part and improve performance. Reducing parts in a manufacturing process benefits industries like the biomanufacturing industry where the processes and manufacturing equipment are complex and made up of hundreds different parts.
“We are exploring opportunities where additive can bring cost savings and technical improvements to our supply chain and products” explains Andreas Marcstrom, Manager of Additive Engineering at GE Healthcare’s Uppsala site. “Simply printing a part doesn’t really deliver that much improvement to a product or process. You have to re-think the entire design – to do this, you need your R&D teams and your additive manufacturing engineers working from the start of the development process – our center in Uppsala ensures that critical step.”
GE is working with the biotechnology company Amgen to test the performance of a chromatography column, used in the complex process to develop biopharmaceuticals, a range of drugs used to treat diseases including cancer and immune diseases. The 3D printed column has been custom-designed and is now being tested to see if it can be used in Amgen’s research to help develop improved processes for the purification stage of biopharmaceutical production.
The GE Healthcare Advanced Manufacturing Engineering team have also developed and programmed multiple cobots which are now installed across GE Healthcare factories globally and are improving efficiency in production lines. Many are part of GE Healthcare’s development of Brilliant Factories – plants that combine continuous improvement and digital to operate more efficiently and with higher quality.
The center in Uppsala joins GE Healthcare’s other advanced manufacturing and engineering center which is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The teams in Uppsala will collaborate with those at the Milwaukee center, sharing knowledge and working on new design ideas.
GE Healthcare is one of six GE businesses today using additive applications. GE seeks to grow its new additive business to $1 billion by 2020; GE Additive is planning to sell 10,000 additive machines over the next 10 years.