Hongsworks is one of the first success stories from a collaboration agreement signed in October 2018 between GE Additive, the Korea Aerospace Industries Association (KAIA) and the Incheon Industry Academy Collaboration Institute (IIACI).
Creating A Bespoke Education Program
Since the initiative launched two years ago, the GE Additive AddWorks engineering consulting team has been collaborating closely with the IIACI to show the potential of metal additive manufacturing to aerospace sector companies across South Korea.
One of the first elements of the initiative was to formalize an education program and a series of workshops to teach the fundamentals of metal additive manufacturing, provide theory-based learning, practical hands-on machinery, software training, as well as materials and structural analysis.
“Through the program we have already met a wide range of talented individuals and companies interested in metal additive. Some are just getting started, others are further along and are almost at the point of industrialization. But they are all united in seeing the positive impact this technology can have on their business model and manufacturing,” says Danny Lee, GE Additive.
“Together with these early adopters in South Korea we are forming a local ecosystem, which in part is driving the momentum and innovation with metal additive that we see here today,” Lee adds.
Collaboration and Mentoring Start Ups
Each year GE Additive and IIACI forms two groups to nurture and mentor. One of the groups who participated in the first workshops went onto form Hongsworks.
Through the program GE Additive AddWorks has leveraged its own experiences with additive to provide the Hongsworks team with technical consultancy on product design and architecture and business guidance as the start-up thinks about scaling up and eventually shifting to mass production.
“When we studied GE’s approach to the LEAP fuel nozzle during the workshop we knew then that metal additive was right for a vacuum ejector we were thinking about,” said Jihong Jung, CEO, Hongsworks.
“Being part of the program has helped us benefit from GE Additive and IIACI’s collective deep expertise as we have shaped our business model and technology roadmap for this part. The program has also extended our network of liked-minded additive manufacturing professionals, who have been supportive and an additional resource to lean on,” adds Jung.
Reimagining a Vacuum Ejector
Typically, a vacuum ejector is a part used in a production line to move goods and incorporates a complex internal passage that controls the airflow and combined with a suction pad. Vacuum ejectors can be found moving everything from hazardous chemicals to delicate products using the suction pad.
Conventionally manufactured vacuum ejectors that are widely available today, use at least eight different parts to create a single piece. Now, using direct metal laser melting (DMLM) technology Hongsworks’ vacuum ejector can be additively manufactured in SUS316 stainless steel and mass produced as one part.
Hongsworks’ approach drives both cost and material savings, compared to conventional manufacturing that would require the assembly of plastic injection parts that are easily damaged and crack prone when hardened.
DMLM lends itself particularly well to creating a stronger architecture and a streamlined design for the complex internal passages required to control and amplify to effectiveness of the airflow.
Hongsworks also plans to use additive manufacturing to further customize the part to its customers’ needs. Vacuum degree, vacuum reach speed and size of the part can all be adjusted and customized to bespoke fit each customer’s existing operational specifications.
Additionally, customization might also include system integration, where the ejector and the operating unit - for example, the gripper on the robotic arm - can be additively manufactured in one piece and quickly replace ejectors already in situ on a production line.
Co-located at the IIACI’s new national additive manufacturing center in Incheon, the Hongsworks team has access to a GE Additive Concept Laser M2 system that is located there. As the company starts to prepare the vacuum ejector for mass production it has also recently invested in its own GE Additive Concept Laser Mlab series for ongoing R&D work.
Click here to find out more about GE Additive AddWorks or to contact the team.