By 2025, Pittsburgh-based rail manufacturer Wabtec Corp. (NYSE: WAB) hopes to make up to 250 product components using additive manufacturing technologies, according to Tim Bader, senior business communications leader for global supply chain and global technology at Wabtec.
On Wednesday, the company announced a strategic move in that direction with an investment in General Electric Additive’s H2 binder jet printer capabilities. Wabtec and GE Transportation merged in February 2019.
“Additive technology is going to transform our business and products. This technology opens up new design possibilities for our engineers,” Bader said. “Our team can reimagine how to approach designing and testing products.”
The company’s first H2 machine is currently in GE’s Additive Laboratory in Cincinnati, but will be moved to Wabtec’s new Grove City engine plant by the end of the year.
Put simply, the 3D printing machine forms powder and a liquid binding agent into the shape of a certain part, and then places it in an oven where the binding agent is removed and the powder is fused into solid metal parts.
“Throughout 2018, a multi-disciplinary team at GE Additive developed the second generation ‘H2’ binder jet beta machines,” Josh Mook, innovation leader at GE Additive, said in a prepared statement. “Today, parts are being printed on those machines, which we understand provide the largest format and fastest build speed currently on the market.”
Bader added that in addition to speeding up production time, a shift to additive manufacturing will save Wabtec money because the parts are cheaper to build. That cost will likely continue to drop as the tech matures, he said.
Wabtec has seen a rise in investment in several additive manufacturing technologies recently, including the opening of an additive development lab in Erie last year, Bader said. The lab teaches employees how to use the tech for development and design purposes.