This is one small engine for General Electric, but a giant engine for the world of 3D printing. After several years of R&D, the US engine manufacturer’s engineers in Cincinnati (Ohio) have printed all the components of a turbojet in 3D.
General Electric used the additive manufacturing process, to construct the one foot (30 centimetre) long, eight inch (20 centimetre) diameter engine, which is similar to those found on remote control model planes; under tests, it runs at over 33,000 rpm.
Once the information has been entered into the computer, lasers fuse thin layers of metal powder upon each other (Direct Metal Laser Melting). Once all the pieces have been made, all there is to do is polishing and assembly.
This new manufacturing technique has many advantages, such as material savings, and great precision, all leading to manufacturing time-saving.
Given the complexity of commercial aircraft engines, and the size of certain parts, it will, nevertheless, take time before one made entirely with 3D printing sees the light of day. Even so, certain parts, such as the Leap engine fuel nozzles, are already being produced with this process. By 2020, General Electric plans to produce 100,000 aircraft parts with this new process.