Apr. 16, 2015 | By Alec

While 3D printing technology has been readily adopted by aviation and aerospace industries over the past few years, both as a prototyping and manufacturing technology, it looks like it will now finally be commercially used. Industrial giants GE has just revealed that one of their 3D printed components has been cleared for use in actual jet engines.

This moment has been anticipated for a while now. While GE has been using 3D printing technology for multiple parts over the past months and years, the housing for a sensor known as T25 will be the first part to be commercially used on aircraft. Approximately the size of a fist, the silver metal container houses the compressor inlet temperature sensor of a jet engine. It’s just an obscure part of the engine, but a great first step in the advancement of industrial 3D printing.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (known as the FAA) has just certified it for commercial use in February, and the expectation is that it will be retrofitted to more than 400 GE90-94B jet engines, which are some of the largest and most powerful engines within the GE family. Typically they can be found on Boeing 777 planes.

The 3D printed component is made from a cobalt-chrome ally that protects the delicate sensor from icing and airflows inside the engine. While traditional manufacturing techniques would require years to produce parts like this, 3D printing has proven to be much quicker. ‘Additive manufacturing has allowed GE engineers to quickly change the geometry through rapid prototyping and producing production parts, saving months of traditional cycle time for the T25 sensor housing without impacting the sensor’s capabilities,’ general manager at GE Aviation Bill Millhaem revealed. ‘We got the final design last October, started production, got it FAA certified in February, and will enter service next week. We could never do this using the traditional casting process, which is how the housing is typically made.’

Program Manager for this 3D printing project, Jonathan Clarke, affirmed that it was not just faster and simpler, but also provided parts with superior material properties. ‘Once we found a workable solution, it went straight to production. This technology is a breakthrough,’ he said. 3D printed with selective laser sintering technology, these types of parts have been found to be lighter, more fuel efficient and can be made in single parts.

While this is just the first part to go up into the skies, GE is already working on getting a series of other parts approved. Flight test for the next-generation LEAP jet engine, which features 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles, have already begun This engine is expected to be used on the Boeing 737MAX and the Airbus A320neo. 3D printed fuel nozzles and other components for Boeings new 777X plane (featuring the largest jet engine ever built, the GE9X) are also scheduled to be 3D printed. Both engines are already in big demand (8,500 orders have already come in for the LEAP engine), so 3D printed parts are projected to be used on numerous commercial planes in the coming years.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Anthony wrote at 4/22/2015 1:17:28 AM:

@MARk, Based on other GE Videos it looks like the EOS M280 made these parts

Ben wrote at 4/21/2015 7:25:56 PM:

They specified in the article that it was an SLS Printer used to build the parts. As to which make or model I can only guess. It's probably a machine manufactured by Stratasys or 3DSystems.

mark wrote at 4/16/2015 8:17:03 PM:

what machine made these aerospace parts?

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