3d printing in aviation

Faster, Better, Cheaper. GE and Rolls Royce want it all.

3D printers make jet engines using new, break through technology

The old engineering commandment ‘faster, better, cheaper’ always claimed that you can only ever have two out of the three. A premium product that can be produced quickly, and for less money, has never really been an option. Until now… Both General Electric and Rolls Royce have begun using 3D printers to produce their jet engines, contesting that age-old belief to good effect.

General Electric (GE) were looking for an effective way to build more than 85,000 fuel nozzles for their new Leap jet engines. They have recently made a big investment in 3D printing to replace the more traditional additive manufacturing technique. Usually the nozzles are made from 20 different parts, 3D printing can create them in one metal piece. GE says that the process is more efficient, easily creating designs that can’t be made using traditional techniques. The end product is stronger, lighter and can withstand the intense heat of an engine (2400F).

Rolls Royce turned to 3D printing to make lighter components for their engines. Henner Wapenhans, head of technology strategy at Rolls Royce, told the Financial Times:

“3D printing opens up new possibilities, new design space. Through the 3D printing process, you’re not constrained [by] having to get a tool in to create a shape. You can create any shape you like.”

Dr Wapenhans also confirmed that the new technology would slash lead times. Traditionally, to make a specific metal part, you have to first make the tool that can produce the part… a process that can take 18 months. With 3D printing none of this is necessary. 3D printing is faster, better and cheaper!

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