The maker movement is a big community of students, manufacturing enthusiasts and hobbyists using cutting edge tools and design software to find better ways to make things. In the U.S., they meet in TechShop workshops and flock to Maker Faire fairs to innovate and exchange ideas. But the results of GE’s latest manufacturing challenge show that the movement resonates far beyond America’s borders. It is an international affair.
GE and GrabCAD, working closely with digital strategy firm Undercurrent, just announced 10 finalists of the 3D Printing Design Quest challenge to redesign a jet engine bracket, make it lighter, and print it on a 3D printer. There were more than 700 entries and the finalists come from nine countries as different and far apart as Hungary, which has two, and Indonesia. They will each receive $1,000.
The bracket is a key jet engine component. It supports the weight of the engine during handling and must withstand strong vibrations during flight.
GE engineers will now manufacture the 10 designs and put them through mechanical tests at GE Global Research in upstate New York. The load testing will take place between Sept. 17 and Nov. 15 and the top eight designs will share a total prize pool of $20,000. “We have entered into a new era of manufacturing that is leveraging the proven power of open innovation,” said Mark Little, chief technology officer at GE Global Research. “Additive manufacturing is allowing GE, together with the maker community, to push the boundaries of traditional engineering. These finalists have demonstrated what can be achieved by embracing this more open, collaborative model.”
The point has not been lost on New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who wrote about the Quest challenge in his latest column. “When G.E. is looking to invent a new product, it first assembles its own best engineers from India, China, Israel and the U.S,” he writes. “But now it is also supplementing them by running ‘contests’ to stimulate the best minds anywhere to participate in G.E.’s innovations… I saw one prototype that was 80 percent lighter than the older version…A majority of entries came from people outside the aviation industry.”
Explore our slideshow featuring designs from the 10 finalists. The judges also recognized several designs for their creativity. They are listed here.
M. Arie Kurniawan lives in Salatiga, Indonesia. He runs a small engineering firm with his brother. “3D printing will be available for everyone in the very near future,“ he says. “It will change many things.”
France’s Alexis Costa says he is a LEGO Technic fan.
Thomas Johansson from Sweden built a powertrain for the luxury sports car maker Koenigsegg. “A colleague sent me a notification of this competition and I could not resist a good challenge where the part was going to be tested in reality,“ he says.
Sebastien Vavassori lives in Stevenage, U.K. He works as a stress engineer for EADS. “3D printing is an interesting process, with a direct value for enterprises specialized in maintenance,” he says. “With 3D printing, the last version of a mechanical part can be downloaded without delay; moreover that costs almost nothing in transport and in stock.“
Nic Adams hails from Cape Town, South Africa, and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. He says that he wanted to keep his bracket “organic, minimizing sharp corners and using a hollow structure to best distribute material and stress.”
Fidel Chirtes from Romania specializes in automotive and machine design.
Andrea Anneda lives in Milan, Italy. “My inspiration came from nature,“ he says. “I tried to recreate a structure similar to a bone.”
Peter Mandli hails from from Hungary. He is interested in automotive design.
Ármin Fendrik works in the small town of Bonyhád in southern Hungary. He tried “a lot of different designs, and after a few I noticed some patterns so I was able to optimize my designs,“ he says. He is interested in 3D printing applications in healthcare and space. “With 3D printing we could design and manufacture personalized body parts…at a moderate cost and with solutions which are only achievable through additive manufacturing.”
Piotr Mikulski lives in Rumia, Poland. He says that “since childhood, I have always been curious about how things work. The problem is that there are so many questions and so little time to find answers.“