GE’s New 3D Printed Aircraft Engine

Everyone knows about GE’s work making 3D printed engine parts for aerospace industry. Up until now, however, the scope of those 3D printed parts might have appeared limited: GE’s GE9X jet engine, for example, contains 19 3D printed fuel nozzles, but the rest of the engine is made up of traditionally made parts. That’s why the company’s sneak peek of its new aircraft engine, equipped with one third 3D printed parts, is so exciting.

“It’s revolutionary,” commented Gordie Follin, head of engineering for the ATP (Advanced Turboprop) program. “The engine is using state-of-the-art technologies that we have validated in our large commercial engines. We are introducing them for the first time in the turboprop market.” By introducing these lightweight 3D printed parts to the engine, the rest of the aircraft can be fitted with extra features.

As a direct result of additive manufacturing, the turboprop engine will have around 30 percent fewer parts than it would have otherwise, while the number of steps required to manufacture the engine has also been greatly reduced.

Cutting out the number of steps makes the engine quicker to produce, but there are other significant advantages that come with using 3D printing. For one, the new engine cuts out the risk of losses and leakages, since its 3D printed parts have no joints.

“This is not a matter of simply replacing one production method with another, but of reinventing the way aviation engines are conceived and designed,” said Giorgio Abrate, engineering lead at Avio Aero, the GE subsidiary that developed the ATP.

According to GE, the ATP is also the world’s first “digital native” aviation engine, having been designed using digital 3D modeling techniques rather than 2D schematics. It will also contain sensors for providing real-time updates on the wear and tear of the engine, so engineers on the ground will know exactly when to perform maintenance on the system.

Full production of the engine is slate­d to begin next year, and the Cessna Denali is expected to be flying by the end 2019.

Benedict. “An inside Look at GE’s New 1,300-Horsepower 3D Printed ATP Aircraft Engine.”3ders.Org, 27 July 2017, www.3ders.org/articles/20170727-an-inside-look-at-ge-new-1300-horsepower-3d-printed-atp-aircraft-engine.html.

Posted in 3D Printing, 3D Technology Blog.

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