GE Additive partners with the University of Sydney to accelerate metal additive manufacturing
GE Additive has announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Sydney. The 10-year agreement supports the creation of the first metal additive manufacturing ecosystem in Australia – with the critical technology and people in place to drive commercial and economic opportunity, education, skills and job development, fully underpinned by a capacity for fundamental research.
Under the terms of the agreement, GE Additive will invest a maximum of US$1mn annually over the next 10 years in research and development, accelerating the adoption of metal additive manufacturing across Australia.
“This MoU builds on the University’s world-class expertise in the disciplines essential to advanced manufacturing such as materials engineering and integrated digital systems,” said Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence.
“By partnering with GE Additive, an industry leader in additive manufacturing, we can set the agenda for this disruptive technology and ensure that Australia is primed to both participate in, and contribute to, this exciting next phase of the industrial revolution. The collaboration will drive the R&D needed to learn how this disruption to manufacturing can be harnessed for economic benefit.
“We are especially delighted that this initiative aligns with our plan to establish a new campus at Parramatta/ Westmead, where advanced manufacturing will be a key focus.”
“We were immediately impressed by the University of Sydney’s vision for additive manufacturing – not just at an academic level, but also because they understand the positive impact this technology can have on Australia’s economy and its workforce in the very near future,” commented Debbra Rogers, chief commercial officer, GE Additive.
“Additive requires a completely different way of engineering and thinking. Educating and training current workforces with new skills and also getting more engineers into additive takes time and programs need to be developed over a number of years. The University of Sydney recognises this and that in order to build the right mindset, the right skills, the right materials we need to encourage close collaboration between companies, academia and governments,” she continued.
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The University of Sydney is committed to providing intellectual leadership in additive manufacturing over the next decade. The MoU reinforces the University’s commitment to establish a new 1,000sqm Additive Manufacturing and Advanced Materials Processing research facility that will serve as a focal point for the partnership.
“This addition to the University’s core research facilities will allow our researchers and research partners to conduct trail-blazing fundamental research, and will directly benefit Australian industry, particularly our aerospace, transport, biomedical and defence sectors,” added Professor Simon Ringer, Director of Core Research Facilities at the University of Sydney.
“We are creating an environment for our researchers to explore the limits of what materials can do, how they are structured, and how to make them. Establishing a world-class capability in Darlington/ Camperdown is a key first step for our grand plans for Advanced Manufacturing in Paramatta/ Westmead.”
Other areas of cooperation between GE Additive and the University of Sydney include:
- Funding from GE Additive to drive new R&D into material and powder technologies, sensing and analytics - building on the university’s existing advanced manufacturing and materials science research capabilities and infrastructure
- Development of new applications and potentially new additive manufacturing industries that will drive positive commercial and economic impact
- Bilateral access to GE Additive‘s and the University of Sydney’s local and global networks of academic, industry and government stakeholders
The MoU with University of Sydney complements GE Additive‘s global hub and spoke strategic approach to research and development, which encourages partnerships with leading universities and research organizations on joint initiatives.
The master research agreement included within the terms of this MoU covers three areas:
- Materials and powder technologies, including; alloy design, alloy modification, powder characterization and powder characteristic-process response identification, post-processing optimization and materials gaps in repairs
- Sensing technologies and advanced materials characterization - building on the University’s experience with electron microscopy and GE Additive’s Arcam EBM – electron beam melting technology
- Image processing and data analytics
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.