Composites Automation Cuts Production Time Down to Hours

Over the next few years, GE Aviation will introduce more new engine platforms than it has in the past few decades. This will bring about unprecedented demands on engine production that will require higher degrees of speed and efficiency. Automation will play a key role in helping the Aviation business keep pace.

At GE’s Michigan Technology Center and at our Global Research Center in Munich, GE engineers are developing sophisticated new automated processes to rapidly produce complex, large-scale composite parts for future aircraft engine platforms. These processes involve the use of large robotic arms with more than a dozen spools spinning out fiber in precise, predetermined patterns to form a part.

Advanced composite materials, born in the labs at GE Global Research, are being used in an increasing number of GE products where their unique combination of properties such as high strength, low density and fatigue resistance help to increase performance.

GE was the first to introduce composite parts into an aircraft engine platform in 1995 with the GE90-115B fan blade. The fan blade is a work of art, with each stripe of composite material laid by hand to form its aerodynamic shape. In fact, one has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

One of the first applications for automation will be the production of containment cases for GE Aviation’s Passport 20 engine, which is being designed for large-cabin, long-range business jets. GE engineers already have produced several test fan cases using this method. Very soon, GE Aviation will bring the technology in-house, and begin producing containment cases at a plant in Batesville, Mississippi.