The multi-year, €5 million investment will focus on automated manufacturing of complex composite structures for use in wind turbines, jet engines, and oil and gas applications.

GE Global Research is the technology development arm of the General Electric Company (GE) and provides technology for all of GE's businesses.

The Center of Excellence will benefit from GE Global Research Europe’s carbon composites manufacturing lab, which opened in September 2007, and the TUM’s newly created Lehrstuhl Carbon Composite (LCC) institute, led by Professor Dr Klaus Drechsler. The establishment of the LCC at the TUM has been enabled through an endowment by SGL Carbon SE, of Wiesbaden, Germany, a leading manufacturer of carbon-based products.

“With this initiative we will be able to leverage the expertise and resources of both GE and the Technical University of Munich to further develop automated manufacturing of composites to improve commercial products,” says Carlos Härtel, Managing Director of GE Global Research Europe. “This announcement also emphasises GE’s strong commitment to developing technology in Europe and marks five years of collaboration between the TUM and GE Global Research. The carbon composites Center of Excellence is a key project in GE’s focus on advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Automated manufacturing of carbon composites is aimed at providing an improvement over today’s carbon composite manufacturing processes by reducing cost, improving quality, and increasing the rate and speed of production. This will enable new applications not practical or possible today, including the development of a longer wind tubine blades for increased wind capture and stronger risers to enable high-pressure deep-sea oil exploration and production. GE says that products from its businesses in Europe – such as GE Wind in Germany and the Netherlands, GE Aviation Systems in the UK and GE Oil & Gas in Italy, Norway and the UK – will benefit from advancements in the manufacturing of carbon composites.

GE Aviation used composites in the fan blade of the GE90 jet engine, which was commercialised in the mid-1990s and has since expanded the use to the fan case for the new GEnx engine. In both engines, reductions in weight as a result of the use of carbon composites have led to improved fuel economy and performance over other engines. GE researchers are also sapplying carbon composites technology to wind turbine blades, which could ultimately result in weight savings of 30%.

GE Global Research is headquartered in Niskayuna, New York, USA, and has facilities in India, China and Germany.