Ten finalists have been selected in the GE 3D Printing Production Quest, a competition designed to identify the best of the best in digital fabrication technologies.

As many as three of the winning prototypes selected in the competition will be awarded $50,000 each.

General Electric, working with digital strategy firm Undercurrent and NineSigma, created the two-phase quest to challenge fabricators to demonstrate their ability to produce complex, high precision parts using refractory metals and additive manufacturing processes.

"Ideation – through open innovation – creates customer value and drives advancements across industries. Through quests such as this one, GE remains committed to growing and engaging the broader additive manufacturing and maker communities through open innovation," said GE Executive Director of Global Innovation, Steve Liguori. "GE's engineers, the global maker community and other fabrication leaders are applying additive technologies, including 3D printing, to address customer needs more efficiently and effectively."

The entries were judged by a panel at GE and that process was used to select the ten most promising entrants who will advance to the second and final stage of the competition. The finalists will deliver fabricated prototypes, using materials and technical drawings supplied by GE, as the last step in the process.

The ten winners of Phase One will receive a detailed version of the prototype diagram which includes tolerance specifications in a CAD drawing, the specific fabrication materials required, a production budget of $5000, and then they will be given three months to fabricate the part.

GE plans to evaluate all prototypes for geometric precision, overall mass, and overall volume before selecting the three winning prototypes to receive $50,000 cash prizes.

Finalists came from Germany, Spain, China, Austria, Belgium and the U.S. and represent entries from the worlds of academia, small start-up companies and established additive manufacturing businesses.

Irving Weinberg, of Weinberg Medical Physics in Bethesda, MD, is head of a small medical technology company developing ultra-fast, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging systems. An additive manufacturing pioneer, Weinberg has been experimenting with 3D-printed electromagnetic coils for MRI machines.

As one of the 22 entrants to the challenge, and now one of the 10 finalists, Weinberg says he's thrilled with the chance to take advantage of GE's scale and expertise.

"We're an R&D company and we like to have a rapid cycle time from design to prototype," Weinberg said. "As a small company, rapid evolution of products is our primary advantage over the big boys."

"This type of challenge is a perfect match for open innovation," said NineSigma CEO Andy Zynga. "It connects scientists, technologists, researchers, and inventors in a broad spectrum of industries and then dramatically advances what today is considered 'state of the art.' We're thrilled to be working together with GE to support them in staying at the forefront of additive manufacturing."

GE now plans to comb through the finalist entries to select up to three winners by the close of the first quarter in 2014.

NineSigma provides open innovation services to organizations worldwide, including Kraft Foods, Philips, Siemens, and Unilever. Named to the 2012 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private U.S. companies, NineSigma boasts the largest open global network of solution providers and an extensive database of existing solutions spanning numerous industries and technical disciplines.