Monday, May 5, 2014 5:00 AM

GE awarded LayerWise as winner of its worldwide open innovation challenge, the 3D Printing Production Quest. The winning submission of LayerWise proves the company's capability to produce complex medical imaging device parts with high precision. High-end metal 3D printing capabilities mastered by LayerWise help drive greater product performance, quality and cost savings for healthcare customers. Being awarded by the largest industrial group in the world, LayerWise is likely to become a technology partner to GE.

New 3D printing uses in healthcare

As part of GE's global 3D Printing Production Quest, LayerWise produced a complex high-precision part using a refractory metal. LayerWise and two other winners were selected by GE based on analysis of their dimensional capabilities as well as material related and other qualitative aspects of their entries. Participants representing research teams from academia, start-ups and established businesses worldwide competed in the Quest in effort to explore new uses for 3D printing technologies in the healthcare sector.

As the worldwide medical imaging market is expected to reach €25 billion ($35 billion) by 2019, GE envisions additive manufacturing enabling new component designs that greatly simplify manufacturing and reduce cost, while improving image quality and diagnostic capability.

Printing refractory metals

Refractory metals have high density allowing them to very effectively block x-rays without the environmental and health hazards associated with lead. 3D printing of refractory metals is particularly challenging because such metals also have very high melting temperatures, up to 3,400°C (6,000°F). They are used in x-ray systems to control the path of x-rays from the source through the patient's body and some components such as x-ray source tubes that take advantage of the high melting temperature.

Proven technology leadership

Peter Mercelis, Managing Director of LayerWise: "Through many years of experience and by acquiring full control over the layered manufacturing technology, LayerWise really masters the powder-to-solid transformation. Winning the quest reconfirms that LayerWise is a world leader in 3D printing high-tech metal materials. This is one of the reasons LayerWise collaborates with renowned medical, industrial and aerospace manufacturers in Europe, USA and beyond."

"In-depth research on new materials and additive manufacturing technology is essential in delivering and validating high-end series production," Mercelis said. "Serving both as a technology developer and as a technology user, we are able to directly test new developments on real applications. This makes our technology progress both very applicable as effective."