As a tech demonstration, researchers at GE recently built a miniature, backpack-sized jet engine that they made entirely from 3D-printed parts. And not just for looks, either. They were able to fire it up and get it moving to 33,000 rpms.
The engine was built over the course of several years, using a 3D printing technique that melted thin layers of metal powder one on top of each other to build each individual part of the engine. Once all the parts were manufactured, the engine was then assembled. The final product was about eight inches tall and a foot long.
Once the engine was completed, the engine was placed into a test cell that would be used for any other jet engine and fired up.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t just a cool thing that GE has put together. It goes to demonstrate just how far 3D printing has come in the aerospace industry.
“This is much more that a stunt,” said Terry Wohlers, a 3D-printing analyst for Wohlers Associates. “It shows what’s possible with additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing technology, especially for very demanding applications. GE Aviation will be producing tens of thousands of fuel nozzles by AM for its new-generation LEAP engine in the coming months and years. Airbus has also produced complex metal AM parts that have flown on the new A350.”
by Alex Knapp | MAY 12, 2015 @ 12:14 AM