The time is now: innovation thrives at the intersection of tradition and new ideas

At a time when new technologies are fundamentally shifting the way we think about our work, some of the best innovation breakthroughs happen at the intersection between tradition and visionary thinking, exploring new frontiers while celebrating our heritage.

One of the challenges today’s manufacturing world needs to most urgently tackle is the need to improve productivity. With many economies experiencing stagnating or low growth, and traditional cost reduction efforts coming to their limits, efforts are turning to enabling greater efficiency and agility in our operations. Process automation and sophisticated technology have the potential to unlock some of the much-needed improvement across our world.

At GE Inspection Technologies we have a long-standing tradition of providing high quality non-destructive testing (NDT) solutions as well as expert customer services and support. We know that industrial Computed Tomography (CT) can significantly improve failure analysis and dimensional measurement processes, collecting valuable 3D data to optimize production parameters and ensure high quality and security standards. That’s why we have a vision of 100% CT inspection on the production floor for the coming years. But, compared to 2D X-ray inspection, CT has historically been much slower, requiring taking hundreds of high quality X-ray images and advanced algorithms for reconstructing and evaluating 3D volume data. This was always the bottleneck. But now, a bundle of innovations to increase scanning speed and fully automate loading and evaluation procedures allows us to let CT migrate from the quality labs to the production lines.

For example, we are just launching an innovative Inline CT inspection solution that builds on our existing fast gantry-based helix CT scanner speed|scan CT 64 but further improves it by enabling unmanned, fully automated and non-stop fast inline CT inspection of large light metal castings or composite parts.

The research, product development and manufacturing of these industrial CT machines takes place in Northern Germany, at GE’s Inspection Technologies sites at Ahrensburg and – just few kilometres from Hannover - at Wunstorf. This facility, which began 18 years ago as a start-up in a garage, has expanded to fill three production halls with several CT system production lines.

As one of the world’s largest industrial CT manufacturers, GE Inspection Technologies can provide unique proprietary CT technology and core components from the GE store. This means that core components like X-ray tubes, generators and detectors are exclusive GE technology. And as world’s leading digital industrial company, we own lots of patents to make industrial CT faster and more precise than ever before.

Over the past few years, Additive Manufacturing has been gaining momentum, paving the way for manufacturers to create smaller batches of highly complex products in a fraction of the time and at lower costs, while maintaining the same safety standards of traditional processes. At GE, we have successfully applied additive techniques to a range of our core technology, from Aviation to manufacturing and Oil & Gas operations. The launch of GE Additive in 2016 underscores our commitment to bringing their potential to the industrial world. 

As additive techniques become more mainstream, the spotlight is on quality control and defect detection to minimize downtime during the production process, safeguard efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and ensure high quality and performance of the printed parts. Solutions like Inline CT are at the very heart of our mission to help customers from industries like Aviation, Automotive, Oil & Gas or Power Generation ensure quality and productivity of their operations. They can also bring significant benefits to the world of Additive Manufacturing. Quality control departments can scan their complex parts for failure analysis and dimensional measurements in real-time on the production floor.

Imagine an automotive manufacturer being able to fully examine and measure each moulded cylinder head before further processing steps, or an aerospace component manufacturer being able to inspect and measure even latest generation multi-wall turbine blades or highly complex parts made by additive which are no longer accessible for traditional non-destructive testing methods. The result? Optimized production productivity, improved quality, less waste, and peace of mind for consumers who trust their cars, planes and other machinery to be safe and reliable.

In a world that values speed and agility, we are using our expertise to push the boundaries of speed, reliability and efficiency, enabling the inspection of some of the most complex structures in the world - from microscopic features to detailed aerospace or automotive designs.

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