CFM International has announced that it is working on a laser additive manufacturing process to produce parts for CFM's Leap family of turbofan engines.
CFM International is a 50/50 joint venture between French aircraft manufacturer Snecma and GE's Global Research Centre. Based on an additive manufacturing process developed at GE's Global Research Center CFM's new project could reduce the weight and amount of material used, translating directly into cost savings.
GE unveiled this news at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK. GE has been developing the additive manufacturing technology for 20 years and they are already using the method on some parts repair work for engines.
CFM didn't specify which Leap parts are being made with additive manufacturing. But this technology allows GE to "print" metal parts by building up the material layer-by-layer. This method gives GE designers more freedom to engineer parts with complicated geometry and structure.
"We can avoid having to braze 15-20 piece parts together to form one component." said a GE rep. In fact it will reduce the weight and amount of material by 30%-40% - a critical cost factor for an industry that is increasingly relying on expensive metals to reduce weight.
GE will be using a SLM 250HL additive manufacturing machine, from SLM Solutions in Lubeck, Germany. This machine has a build chamber of 250 x 250 x 350mm and layer thickness of 20 µm - 75 µm. It can build a 3D part at a rate of about 15 ccm/h.
"The additive manufacturing technology, which can result in parts that weigh half as much as traditional milled or hogged-out components, dramatically increases the buy-to-fly ratio - the amount of material you buy versus how much makes it into the product. That's important for expensive alloys." said Prabhjot Singh, manager of the additive manufacturing lab at the GE Global Research Center.
The Leap engine is CFM's next-generation jet engine, a high-bypass turbofan engine weighing "several hundred pounds" less than conventional engines. Leap engines are expected to reduce fuel consumption by 15% -- saving $12 million annually in fuel costs per aircraft (assuming $2.50/gal of jet fuel and a 15-year ownership horizon), and eliminating roughly 46,300 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Full Leap engine tests are slated to begin in mid-2013 with deliveries beginning in 2016; orders and commitments totaled $47.5 billion in 2011, and it's received "billions more this year."
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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