Before a truly disruptive manufacturing technology can be successfully integrated into a company’s operations, a CEO needs to build a comprehensive equation regarding if and when to launch it. This equation measures the technology’s new complexities, capital and startup costs, when and how many benefits are first realized, and the risks of a disrupted rollout.
One of the most important elements of the equation of a very new manufacturing method is the ability to ensure efficient high-quality controls and yields. One disruptive technology where this is particularly relevant is 3D metal printing, also known as metal additive manufacturing.
In November 2017, according to GE Reports, former GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt noted that the company believed the long-term market potential for additive manufacturing was about $75 billion. Immelt went on to announce plans to build a business with $1 billion of revenue in additive equipment and service by 2020, up from $300 million today. Further confirming GE’s commitment to this goal, the company reported that it plans to build 100,000 jet engine fuel nozzles with 3D printing by 2020. However—although many of GE’s peer companies in aerospace are visibly active in 3D metal printing research and assessment—only Airbus has joined GE in having made a substantial launch to serial production of 3D metal parts.
Although GE is not alone in asserting that 3D metal printing is a transformative technology of the near future, many CEOs of less-aggressive high-technology enterprises are still exercising restraint, continuing research into 3D metal printing but at the same time patiently charting the path and potential of this technology to become a cost-effective, reliable, high-quality equation for large-scale production.
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