The industrial fringe of Greenville, South Carolina, isn’t the most obvious place to go looking for a glimpse of things to come. But tucked behind railroad tracks and boxy factories you’ll find GE Power’s new Advanced Manufacturing Works, which opened in April. It’s changing how humans make things.

Larger than two football fields and emblazoned with a giant GE monogram, the facility is like a massive toolbox from the future. It holds a sleek “microjet” cutter that sends a laser beam through a thin stream of water and cuts shapes into the hardest metals that are so precise they look almost alien (see below). There are rows of industrial-grade 3D printers and ovens with argon atmospheres that cure parts made from light and heat resistant supermaterial called  ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). Elsewhere, a robot nicknamed Autonomous Prime after the Transformers character Optimus Prime, scans its work area with LIDAR eyes — the same technology used by Google in self-driving cars — and services a computer-controlled milling machine. Much of the technology here comes embedded with sensors that stream data over secure Industrial Internet links into the cloud for analysis and insights.

 

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3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, News