Additive Manufacturing Team 3D-Prints Working Jet Engine
Andrew Wheeler posted on May 16, 2015 |
GE Aviation pushes the limits of metal additive manufacturing

GE Aviation has side projects. Side projects are cool. The Angel Trumpet 3D printed jet engine is one such side project.

A team of engineers, machinists and engineers 3D-printed a backpack-size engine at GE Aviation's Additive Development Center near Cincinnati. They built the engine over the course of a few years to test out what AM can really do when pushed, and also to have a great side project to work on.  

“We wanted to see if we could build a little engine that runs almost entirely out of additive manufacturing parts,” according to one of the engineers. “This was a fun side project.”

It's not quite as complex as a commercial aircraft engine. That was a bit too complicated to build into this working model. Instead, they analyzed an engine for remote control model airplanes and customized it for 3D printing. Score another victory for the team that's already developed an AM fuel nozzle for inclusion in the CFM LEAP jet engine for commercial single-aisle aircraft, which is being tested right now. The FAA recently approved the first 3D-printed component (T25 sensor housing) for a version of the GE90 jet engine. GE is currently retrofitting the component onto 400 existing aircraft. 

“There are really a lot of benefits to building things through additive,” says Matt Benvie, spokesman for GE Aviation. “You get speed because there’s less need for tooling and you go right from a model or idea to making a part. You can also get geometries that just can’t be made any other way.”

They then proceeded to blast it to 33,000 RPM.  

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