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GE Aviation Picks Winners in Pitch for Casting Alternatives

April 19, 2015
Burloak Technologies and won the first round in the "open innovation challenge" for aircraft engine structural castings Cost and cycle-time reductions … annual production targets, tolerance and control improvements Second-round challenge
The winning proposals earned cash awards and an opportunity to continue collaborating with GE Aviation to develop the technology, to optimize production of complex structural components.

GE Aviation selected two winning proposals in its “open innovation challenge, Alternative Manufacturing of Aviation Castings,” initiated earlier this year to identify alternatives to investment casting as production technologies for complex structural parts to aircraft engines.

As it announced the winning proposals, the jet-engine builder also issued a second round for the challenge, which seeks proposals for even broader capabilities.

The winning first-round proposals were submitted by Burloak Technologies of Ontario, Canada, and of Miamisburg, OH. Both companies were awarded a

$5,000 cash prize and may have the opportunity to collaborate with GE Aviation, possibly continuing the technology development.

The initial proposals sought by GE Aviation concerned a detailed engineering model of a simulated structural casting. The evaluation criteria included a targeted 25% reduction in cost, driving cycle time below 12 weeks, annual production capability for 125 units, and improvement in tolerance and controls to permit reduction of material and maintenance of wall thickness.

“Structural castings are one of the most challenging components in a jet engine, and this challenge was a successful way to engage innovators from all around the globe to uncover approaches to improve on current processes to increase speed and reduce cost while maintaining or improving product quality and reliability,” stated Julia Bird, project sponsor and sub-section manager at GE Aviation. “With 89 participants, the breadth of responses ranged from entrepreneurs to large, established multi-nationals. This adds a new layer of possibilities to grow our network and rolodex as we continue to focus on putting our customers first.”

Burloak Technologies — a group of companies that performs rapid prototyping projects as well as additive manufacturing (SLS, DMLS, 3DP) and CNC machining — submitted a proposal that included design optimization that incorporates additive manufacturing to create a component, offering 50% weight and cycle-time reduction compared to the baseline. — a supplier of prototype and production metalcastings and foam patterns for investment castings— proposed a process called “Mass Manufacturing of Metal Parts (3MP)” that combines additive manufacturing with other processing techniques, to lower cycle time and reduce inspection requirements thanks to improved material qualities.

In the second round of the challenge, GE Aviation is seeking proposals for broader production capabilities, ones it said would expand contacts “for transformative and emerging manufacturing technologies and techniques,” according to the announcement.

“This quest strives to discover novel, unique and non-mainstream manufacturing methods—including demonstrable, early stage techniques,” GE Aviation stated.

Submissions for Round 2 of the Alternative Manufacturing of Castings Innovation Challenge are due May 7.

“We are constantly challenging ourselves to be faster and simpler while putting the customer first,” said Lisa Ralph, open innovation leader at GE Corporate. “Innovation challenges are an exciting vehicle to rethink what’s possible by collaborating with entrepreneurs, universities and the broader global community to ideate, test and commercialize promising new technologies. It is an inspiring process that celebrates cognitive diversity and allows us to partner with brilliant minds to solve for novel solutions and high impact opportunities in market.”

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)