General Electric has recently been testing a new demonstrator engine and it is manufactured by using 35% 3D printed components. This engine is an unprecedented piece of technology and shows just how important 3D printing is going to be for the future of manufacturing. GE is trying to show that this process is essential and so far they have proven it by reducing weight by 5% and decreasing fuel consumption by 1% in this demonstration.
The company already has additive manufactured parts on their CFM Leap engine, which is being used in many commercial planes. This engine, known as the clean sheet design Turboprop (ATP), will be the largest and most ambitious 3D printed engine to date. Instead of using the more common subtractive manufacturing, 3D printing will eliminate the need for weighty and unnecessary additions. “With subtractive manufactured parts and assemblies, you traditionally use bolts, welds or other interfaces to attach the parts together, which adds weight to the engine” (bit.ly/2ffxmqE) said Gordon Follin, ATP Engineering GM at GE Aviation.
Additive manufacturing has been largely used as a prototyping tool in the past. However, recent advancements in materials and technology have allowed 3D printing to break into the industrial manufacturing of critical components. As Follin stated above, this technology can have a dramatic impact on the overall weight of an engine and in aerospace, weight equals dollar signs. The heavier an aircraft is, the more fuel it will take to achieve lift and maintain flight. By utilizing the unique properties of additive manufacturing, engineers and manufacturers can redefine design and substantially cut the weight of a completed engine.
Traditional manufacturing techniques are known as subtractive manufacturing. This is the process of carving out the desired shape of a component from a solid block of material. The practice can get the job done, however it has some restraints which 3D printing can overcome. Having the ability to build up components layer by layer offers engineers the ability to create components and complex shapes that were simply not possible before this incredible technology.
GE in particular has taken the lead to help bring additive manufacturing to the forefront of aerospace manufacturing. This is not to say that other aerospace manufacturers aren’t taking this technology seriously, but recently GE has revealed some noteworthy initiatives and projects associated with 3D printing.
To find out more about GE’s push for additive manufacturing take a look at the articles below: