3D Printing

GE fires up fully 3D-printed jet engine

GE fires up fully 3D-printed j...
The engine was made entirely of 3D-printed parts (Photo: GE Aviation)
The engine was made entirely of 3D-printed parts (Photo: GE Aviation)
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The miniature engine reached 33,000 RPM (Photo: GE Aviation)
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The miniature engine reached 33,000 RPM (Photo: GE Aviation)
The 3D-printing process uses a laser to melt metallic powder (Photo: GE Aviation)
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The 3D-printing process uses a laser to melt metallic powder (Photo: GE Aviation)
Several jet parts being printed (Photo: GE Aviation)
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Several jet parts being printed (Photo: GE Aviation)
Finishing a 3D-printed part (Photo: GE Aviation)
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Finishing a 3D-printed part (Photo: GE Aviation)
The engine was made entirely of 3D-printed parts (Photo: GE Aviation)
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The engine was made entirely of 3D-printed parts (Photo: GE Aviation)
Components of the 3D-printed engine (Photo: GE Aviation)
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Components of the 3D-printed engine (Photo: GE Aviation)

It's one thing to 3D-print something as advanced as a jet engine, but it's another to fuel it up and push the start button. That's the step that GE Aviation took when it recently fired up a simple jet engine made entirely of 3D-printed parts in a test stand normally reserved for commercial jet power plants.

The 1-foot long by 8-inch tall (30 by 20 cm) engine was built at GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center outside Cincinnati as a side project. The result of several years' work, the purpose was to test the printing technology. It's not the first 3D-printed jet engine, but it has been fired and revved up to 33,000 RPM.

GE says that the simplified design was necessary because building anything like a conventional commercial engine is beyond the present technology’s state of the art. The team therefore chose a design created for remote control model planes, which was modified for Direct Laser Metal Melting (DLMM) printing

Components of the 3D-printed engine (Photo: GE Aviation)
Components of the 3D-printed engine (Photo: GE Aviation)

DLMM works by laying down a fine metallic powder in a flat layer, then a laser fuses a section of the CAD plan within it. Another layer of dust is laid down and the process is repeated. When the printing is completed, the excess powder is blown and brushed away, and the part is given a finish. The technique was used in fabricating GE’S first 3D-printed part to be certified by the American FAA for installation in the GE90 jet engine.

"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."

The model engine is on display at the Additive Development Center.

The video below discusses the 3D-printed model engine.

Source: GE Reports


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8 comments
DavidJ61
Absolutely awesome.
charizzardd
I could see titanium printing taking over on large blade molding. Large printers could probably save a lot of time and money over the current process for a singular titanium blade and would I guess offer similar performance without needing to add the nubs midway up the blade to use cheaper materials. Definitely excited to see how it all plays out.
Raf
Would be nice to know the specs. like hp/fuel consumption/.... and all the different corrélations, you know. There is a future for these kind of dependable small jet engines as a range extender for cars/trucks, ....., of course depending on the specs.
Expanded Viewpoint
Effen A man! Effen A! Now THAT'S what I'm talking about there! The sound of a gas turbine engine spooling up is just MUSIC to my ears! GE could sell these things to the model airplane/boat market with EASE. Having a nice decal that says "Powered by GE" to slap on the side of the fuselage or hull would definitely be a point of pride for just about any GTE powered RC enthusiast. All that they need to scale this up is bigger stepper motors and controllers to run them. If they can print up a building out of concrete, how much of a leap is it really to make a full size turbine hub and blades? This IS General Electric isn't it? Don't they make electric motors and such? How hard can it be to design and build a large enough stepper motor for a project like that if there isn't one already sitting on a shelf somewhere? Same way with the laser system. Use a gang of them all focused to the same point if there isn't one big enough to do the job on its own. Randy
Firehawk70
Hello, may I have a few of those for my batmobile? I would like the one that bursts fire out the back. Yes, that one for sure!
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is really neat. It would be neat to see it used on a small plane; one or two seat plane - using one or two of these engines.
GabrielTaijeron
Many of us see the potential for hobby planes and backpack jets, maybe even a nicer car with more vroom. That's nice. I see the future of microturbine-based electricity production, allowing for a power grid with smaller footprints, easy backups, nearly eliminated blackouts, and greater security and stability for our most crucial hospital/banking/living needs. I see entire neighborhoods building parts from their garages, sending them into small-scale Quality Assurance companies, and having them certified as replacements for components needed by industry and defense. I see a more capable America, capable at the community level, of 3D printing every metal component needed in domestic life, including the ability to create entire motors and possibly even entire vehicles. I see the demise of China's monopoly on consumer goods, and the dependence on foreign oil.