GE Global Research awarded $2.6M to develop open source, multi-laser AM platform




America Makes has announced GE Global Research as the awardee of a Directed Project Opportunity for the acceleration of large scale additive manufacturing (ALSAM). GE Global Research, along with its partners at the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at Penn State and GE Additive, was awarded roughly $2.6 million in funding for its project.

The funding awarded by America Makes to GE Global Research comes primarily from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) which provided $2.1 million. The remaining funding comes from the awarded project team.

“America Makes and AFRL are pleased to announce GE Global Research as the ALSAM Directed Project Opportunity awardee,” commented Rob Gorham, America Makes Executive Director. “We are grateful for the continued support and funding from AFRL and extend our congratulations to the GE Global Research team.

“We believe that GE Global Research, ARL at Penn State, and GE Additive outlined the best approach to developing an open source, multi-laser manufacturing machine and research platform. We look forward to the ALSAM project getting underway and the anticipated, game-changing outcomes that will address the immediate and critical needs within the U.S. Air Force and defense industry.”

The ALSAM project undertaken by GE Global Research and its partners is aimed at overcoming challenges that currently exist with selective laser melting (SLM) technology in a bid to increase adoption for production purposes. Challenges addressed in the project include slow production times for single laser machines and limited build volumes. Thus, the partners will work to develop an open source, multi-laser AM system.

The project has appealed to AFRL because it seeks a multi-laser AM research platform to explore the best practices that the technology can fulfill and to quantify part production efficiency. To this end, the Air Force research lab says it requires a flexible platform that will enable it to conduct manufacturing experiments using a multi-laser approach.

With the funding from AFRL and America Makes, GE Global Research will integrate work from three previous America Makes programs to create a commercial Powder Bed Fusion system. The development will also be done in coordination with a DoD-funded project at LLNL—the Optimized Multi-Beam Approach for Powder Bed Fusion. 

By combining the three America Makes programs with the LLNL project, GE Global Research expects its ALSAM platform will offer production efficiency and scalability. Further, it will be suitable for the identification of best practices for scan speed, hatch spacing, power, stitching and various other process parameters.

To meet flexibility requirements, the AM system will be controlled with open source software (for both scanpath generation and machine control) so that users can experiment with various thermal management settings to work with challenging alloys.

The ALSAM project, set to begin in January 2019, will seek to bring the technology from a Manufacturing Readiness Level 6 (MRL6) to MRL7. The open nature of the system will also enable other research organizations to achieve MRL8 through the identification of optimal process parameters, multi-laser strategies, feedback, sensors and more.

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