A Fairy Tale in 3D

U.S. conglomerate General Electric has found a successful formula in Concept Laser, one of the world’s leading equipment manufacturers and technology providers for the 3D printing of metal components. The acquisition expands GE’s operations in Germany.

July, 2017

When GE announced the purchase of a 75 per cent stake in Concept Laser – a Bavarian manufacturer of 3D printing machinery and technology – for €549m in 2016, it had the future of GE Aviation in mind. The high-tech division uses additive manufacturing (AM) for a number of aircraft engine components, including fuel nozzles for the new LEAP jet engine and a significant portion of the Advanced Turboprop Engine (ATP) for its new Cessna aircraft.

The deal, which allows the U.S. group to take full ownership in a number of years, reflects the sea change currently sweeping through the manufacturing sector. 3D printing offers a number of advantages over traditional production methods: parts can be made with less work and less scrap material, while the technology opens up infinite new design possibilities.

»Herzog and his team are true pioneers in metal laser melting technology.«

David Joyce, CEO of GE Aviation

Founded in 2000 by Frank Herzog in the picturesque Bavarian town of Lichtenfels, Concept Laser develops and manufactures AM equipment and plant technology for industries as diverse as aerospace, automotive, toolmaking, and medical and dental equipment. The privately-held company has won multiple awards for innovation in recent years.

Its patented LaserCUSING process, which is used “to create high-precision mechanically- and thermally-resilient metallic components,” is in high demand, for example. It has enjoyed muscular sales growth since 2014, reporting a 54 per cent boost in sales from 2014 to 2015 and posting record figures in the first half of 2016, as sales soared to 88 per cent compared to the same period in 2015.

GE describes itself as a leading end-­user and innovator in the 3D printing field. It has invested some $1.5bn (€1.4bn) in additive technologies and has developed AM applications across six GE businesses. The U.S. group has committed to investing significantly in the Lichtenfels site, which will remain Concept Laser’s headquarters while also becoming a new German center for GE.

David Joyce, GE vice-chairman and CEO of GE Aviation, describes Herzog and his team as “true pioneers in metal laser melting technology,” and has stressed GE’s commitment to “enhancing Concept Laser’s technologies and product offerings.”

Facts & Figures

$ 13.2 bn

Global spending on 3D printers in 2016.*

$ 28.9 bn

Est. revenues from 3D printers by 2020.*

20 %

of all automotive, aerospace, and mechanical and plant engineering companies using additive manufacturing (AM) apply it to make tools.**

2/3

of all US manufacturers use 3D printing in some way – mainly for prototyping.***

1/3

of all plastics, automotive and aerospace, pharmaceutical and medical companies using AM apply it for printing their own end products and components.**

* Source: International Data Corporation (IDC)

** Source: EY’s „Global 3D Printing Report,“ 2016

*** Source: PWC’s 2016 report: „3D Printing Comes of Age in US Industrial Manufacturing“

Demand for 3D printing is spiraling

Herzog will stay on as Concept Laser’s CEO while also assuming a senior leadership ­position at GE. “GE shares our vision regarding the potential for AM. Together, the companies will be able to accelerate development of the technology.”

He is confident that reliance upon AM – which is predicted to see a five-year compound annual growth rate of 22.3 per cent* – will only accelerate: “We are hitting an inflection point in demand as customers increasingly understand the possibilities that additive manufacturing presents and as the technology advances to be able to turn these possibilities into reality.”

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