HANOVER, Germany, April 24 (Reuters) - General Electric is beefing up its additive manufacturing business with an investment of more than 100 million euros ($109 million) in Germany and continues to be alert for acquisition opportunities, the head of the business said.
The maker of jet engines, power plants and other industrial equipment, General Electric last year bought a majority in Swedish 3D printer maker Arcam and privately held German 3D printing firm Concept Laser at a total cost of about $1.3 billion.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, saves money on material costs and time from design to manufacturing by printing objects in layers directly from a computer design instead of cutting them out of blocks of material.
With last year's acquisitions, GE owns two of the five principal 3D printing technologies - powder and electron-beam. "Our goal is to get into all of the these," GE Additive chief Mohammad Ehteshami told reporters on Monday.
Asked whether this could be achieved through organic growth alone, he said: "We are always studying organic and inorganic possibilities... Strategically, there are inorganic plays we would not be smart not to do."
GE already 3D prints several aircraft parts and aims to turn the additive manufacturing business, currently still a part of GE aviation, into a $1 billion external sales business by 2020.
"I have a belief that you'll be able to print the whole jet engine," Ehteshami told reporters at the Hannover Messe industrial trade fair.
He said the group had invested around $1.5 billion in 3D printing technology over the past decade, not including last year's acquisitions.
GE announced an investment of 100 million euros into the newly acquired Concept Laser site in Lichtenfels, Bavaria, where the number of employees should rise to 300 by the end of this year from 200.
It also said it would open a new additive manufacturing customer training and support centre in Munich, planned to be the first of several worldwide aimed at gaining greater exposure for the technology, at a cost of 15 million euros. ($1 = 0.9203 euros) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan, editing by Pritha Sarkar)