A working model jet engine entirely made from 3D printed parts
11 May 2015
GE engineers recently demonstrated some of their capabilities by constructing a simple 3D-printed mini jet engine that attained a test-bed speed of 33,000rpm.
The backpack-sized jet engine was built by a team of technicians, machinists and engineers working at GE's Additive Development Center outside Cincinnati. “We wanted to see if we could build a little engine that runs almost entirely out of additive manufacturing parts,” says Steve Grimm, the plant leader.
The GE team couldn’t build the complexity of a whole commercial aircraft engine into their working model. Instead, they got plans for a simpler engine developed for remote control model aircraft and customised them for their 3D printing machines.
The development team has already scored a number of successes using additive manufacturing for the production of aircraft components. They designed and developed a fuel nozzle that will be additively manufactured for inclusion in the CFM LEAP jet engine for commercial single-aisle aircraft. The engine is currently being tested. The US FAA recently approved the first 3D printed component for a version of the GE90 jet engine.
“There are really a lot of benefits to building things through additive,” Grimm says. “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.”