GE Healthcare launches the Innovative Design and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center for Europe.
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is finding growing use in many different industrial manufacturing applications. It is also used in the medical device industry – customized implants are now often manufactured using the technology.
GE Healthcare believes there are much greater opportunities for using 3D printing in the pharmaceutical industry. To back that up, the company recently opened its first 3D printing lab, which it has named the Innovative Design and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center for Europe.
According to GE, “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 of different parts.”
Overall, GE hopes to grow its additive business will reach a value of $1 billion by 2020, with GE Healthcare as one of six GE businesses contributing to that figure. GE Additive also plans to sell 10,000 additive machines over the next decade.
At its existing Manufacturing Technology Center in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the GE Healthcare Advanced Manufacturing Engineering team has and programmed many different “cobots,” or collaborative robots, that have been installed in GE Healthcare plants around the world.
At the new Center in Uppsala, Sweden, advanced additive manufacturing technologies, including 3D metal and polymer printers, will be used in conjunction with cobots and traditional machining equipment. 3D-printed parts for GE Healthcare products will be designed, tested and produced in preparation for their transfer to commercial production.
One technology already in the evaluation stages is a custom-designed 3D-printed chromatography column. Amgen is currently conducting tests to determine if the column can facilitate the development of improved purification processes for biologic drug substances.
“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.”