Epic failures often are just a precursor to great success in the realm of invention and innovation. Kassy Hart, a lead additive manufacturing engineer for GE Power, can certainly attest to this, and her team has their own corresponding motto relevant to the challenges in creating: ‘Fail fast to learn fast.’
Initially, Hart had a substantial learning curve in attempting to 3D print parts at GE Power’s Advanced Manufacturing Works in Greenville, South Carolina. She and her team were beginning to work in metal 3D printing. Hart made a metal 3D printed probe (an item called a super rake) for use in evaluating engines during testing. Build space was not taken into account correctly though, and Hart remembers the print expanding all the way to the edge, resulting in great difficulty for removal.
“It took technicians more than an hour of finagling it — cursing me the entire time,” she explains.
Kassy Hart [Image: GE Power]
Another experience in trial and error left her printing over a bolt for a support plate, causing some amount of frustration in salvaging the piece.
“When you consider quality requirements, we didn’t print a single good part in the first four months due to the maturity of the technology and team,” she says.
Now a veteran in 3D printing, Hart remembers when the team was pretty much on their own for navigating their way through learning about the technology.
“A lot of times, there’s an expert somewhere to ask questions,” she says. “But it was just us and a few printers we’d never seen before, so we had to figure it out.”
Hart began at the Greenville facility as part of GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program. The training program typically runs two to three years, but after enjoying 3D printing there so much, she decided to remain there. Although Hart was greatly interested in and becoming immersed in learning about 3D printing at that time, GE did not even have a specific space where the engineers could devote their time to 3D printing.
“We were all learning one step — one mistake — at a time,” Hart says. “We were feeling our way through uncharted territory.”
GE recently unveiled a 3D-printed fuel nozzle for GE’s latest HA-class gas turbine that’s setting efficiency records and making power plants cleaner and more cost-effective. [Image: GE Power]
Fast forward three years, and Hart and her team are now leaders in 3D printing throughout the world. Famous for their super efficient 3D printed fuel nozzles, the team continues to press forward in creating innovative parts for use at the GE facility and in the aerospace arena. And while mistakes are not as common these days, they monitor the process closely and have a sense of humor about the frustrations of prints gone wrong.
Recently, Hart was working on a print with 40 pieces being printed at once.
“Always check those bolt holes!” she reminds, tongue in cheek.
Find out more about GE’s Edison Engineering Development Program here, and GE Power here.
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[Source: GE Reports]