Fortune magazine recently reported on what they term as the bestselling aircraft engine that entered production in 2015. The Leap engine produced by GE was conceived with the assistance of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
What makes this engine noteworthy is the 3D printing process that was utilized in order to produce the engines fuel nozzles. Each Leap engine has 19 nozzles, each having to withstand temperatures up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.
GE was able to take the 20 separate parts that were once machined together to comprise the nozzle’s interior passageways and construct them into once piece that is built up by layering powdered metals melted and fused together. This process makes the nozzles five times stronger than those made through the standard milling process.
Continuing on the current path, by 2020, GE will be manufacturing well in excess of 100,000 parts via additive manufacturing for the Leap and other aircraft engines.
The intent of utilizing additive manufacturing is to bring about cost-savings in the manufacturing process. This will also allow them to buildout factory and employee capacity to create a wider suite of engine components that can not be machined through traditional manufacturing processes.
“The real power of additive (manufacturing) is taking six parts and designing it into one. You can created geometry that you can’t make in any other way,” says Greg Morris, Business Development Manager of Additive Technologies at GE Aviation.