3D Printing Creates New Parts for Aircraft Engines

In 2016, GE Aviation will introduce the first 3D-printed parts in an aircraft engine platform. Each of the new CFM LEAP engines, produced jointly by GE and its long-time partner, Snecma (SAFRAN) of France, will have 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles in the combustion system that could not be made any other way. The benefits of printing these parts are numerous.

  • Lighter in weight – the weight of these nozzles will be 25% lighter than its predecessor part.
  • Simpler design – the number of parts used to make the nozzle will be reduced from 18 to 1.
  • New design features – more intricate cooling pathways and support ligaments will result in 5X higher durability vs. conventional manufacturing.

These benefits all will lead to higher performance from our engines. With several thousand orders for the new CFM LEAP, GE Aviation will produce more than 100,000 3D-printed parts by the close of this decade. Today, GE is the world’s largest user of additive technologies in metals.

The production of 3D-printed parts in GE aircraft engines signals a paradigm shift that is happening with the emergence of additive manufacturing. Additive not only offers the opportunity to design parts never before possible; Scientists in GE’s Additive Manufacturing Lab also see new possibilities for designing entirely new materials.

New advances in laser technology and 3D-printing machines are allowing scientists to experiment with new material configurations by mixing and combining metal powders in more innovative ways.

Aviation represents the first GE business where additive technologies are being applied. GE scientists are also developing applications for other GE businesses as well, which include:

  • Healthcare – production of a low -cost Ultrasound transducer that allows intricate patterns on the probe face to be printed all at once vs. time intensive, micromachining techniques used today.
  • Appliances – Rapid prototyping of new appliance designs at 15000 parts/year
  • Oil & Gas – Turbomachinery prototyping and development of new pump parts

Power & Water- Has a combustion component undergoing field testing and is actively exploring the use of the AM for new (high-performance) designs.