GE Aviation selects Auburn for new 3-D facility

Business Council of Alabama member GE Aviation announced plans to invest $50 million in a new, high volume additive manufacturing facility in Auburn.

According to a company statement, the investment is being made to build a fuel nozzle at the company’s facility in Lee County, making it the first component of such complexity to be manufactured using additive technology, or 3-D printing.

Additive manufacturing is a significant technological breakthrough, differing from traditional manufacturing that cuts away at a metal slab to produce parts. Additive manufacturing has the ability to “grow” parts with a computer-aided design file that uses layers of fine metal powder and an electron beam or laser. It’s fast and less wasteful.

GE Aviation is a global leader in jet engine and aircraft systems production. This 3-D printing facility will be the first of its kind to mass produce additive components for the jet propulsion industry.

This expansion has local leaders in awe of what is to come in the future.

“In economic development, we often use the term ‘cutting-edge’,” said Auburn Mayor Bill Ham. “We want cutting-edge companies because they are more likely to stick around for a long time; providing jobs, taxes and economic benefits to the community, to the state and beyond.”

Since the facility’s opening in April of 2013, GE has hired more than 70 people. Hiring will increase with the additional work. The company projects to employ more than 300 later in this decade.

“GE Aviation’s decision to launch a 3-D printing initiative at its Auburn plant speaks volumes about the ability of an Alabama workforce to carry out cutting-edge manufacturing,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “This is tomorrow’s technology and we are proud to say it will be performed right here in Alabama.”

Equipment installation will begin later this year and production will begin in 2015. As many as 10 printing machines could occupy the plant by the end of 2015 with the possibility of growing to more than 50 printers. The facility will continue to manufacture precision, super-alloy machined parts for jet engines.

-Anna Dobbins

More information about GE Aviation’s additive technology can be seen in the video below.