Brilliant Minds Solve GE Aviation Open Innovation Challenges
Two open innovation challenges garner novel solutions to improve aviation manufacturing and safety inspections.
General Electric, United States
No stranger to open innovation to solve technical problems, the General Electric Company (GE) launched two aviation innovation challenges in early 2015. The global company sought solutions that would advance manufacturing and safety processes in the aviation industry.
Challenge One: Alternative Manufacturing of Aviation Castings Challenge
This was a search for alternative methods to investment casting of aircraft engine components. Investment casting is an industrial process for forming metal shapes. GE wanted the alternative technologies to meet one or more of a number of criteria, including a significant reduction in the cost of parts manufacturing and improving the speed of manufacturing.
“Structural castings are one of the most challenging components in a jet engine, and this challenge was a successful way to engage innovators from all around the globe to uncover approaches to improve on current processes to increase speed and reduce cost while maintaining or improving product quality and reliability,” said Julia Bird, project sponsor and Sub-Section Manager at GE Aviation
Challenge Two: Inspection Technologies Challenge
GE was after technologies, processes and approaches that would speed up aviation parts inspection and increase its accuracy. Participants had to come up with an automatic process of inspecting the blade of an off-the-shelf Victorinox paring knife (a low-cost substitute for turbine blades) in three minutes or less with an accuracy of 10 microns and repeatability of 5 microns. Solutions also had to work in a busy manufacturing environment.
Challenge One Winner
The first open innovation challenge attracted 89 participants who contributed a diverse range of solutions based on an engineering model of a simulated structural casting.
Submissions were judged by an internal team and there were two winners, who each picked up a check for $5,000. Burloak Technologies of Ontario, Canada won for a solution that involved the use of additive manufacturing to create a component offering 50% weight and cycle time reduction.
The other winner was buyCastings.com of Miamisburg, OH for their process called Mass Manufacturing of Metal Parts (3MP). It also involves additive manufacturing as well as other processes and results in lower cycle time and improved material qualities which reduces inspection requirements.
In addition to their cash prizes, the two companies may have opportunities to collaborate with GE Aviation.
Challenge Two Winner
This second challenge received 51 entries from 48 participants in 18 countries. The $15,000 prize winner was Capture 3D, of Costa Mesa, CA, a company that competed the challenge by using its ATOS Triple Scan III non-contact blue light 3D scanner. It is now eligible to enter into a Joint Development Agreement with GE.
Open Innovation Advantages
Highlighting the benefits of open innovation for GE, the company's chief manufacturing engineer, said: "The challenge was a fantastic way to broaden our exposure to potential new players and new technologies. Only two of the organizations that participated were previously known to us, and it’s inspiring—and eye-opening—to see such a broad variety of submissions from around the globe."
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