Jun 11, 2015 | By Simon

While 3D Printing has been used repeatedly throughout various industries to create prototype parts that are capable of being used to better understand the properties of what would later become a final manufactured part, we’re starting to see more 3D printed parts that are in fact the final manufactured parts themselves.  Among other industries where this is increasing on a seemingly daily basis is the aerospace industry.   

A great example is MTU Aero Engines, a German company that is based in Munich, that have been developing, producing and supplying a range of aircraft parts for both civil and military aircraft engines for years now using traditional manufacturing technologies.  More recently, the company - who is a primary supplier to Pratt & Whitney, whose PW1100G-JM geared turbofan engine will be powering the new Airbus A320neo jetliner - has been skipping the traditional manufacturing supply chain altogether in favor of additive manufacturing technologies to create their parts.  Currently, the company operates seven additive manufacturing machines from EOS, the global 3D printer manufacturer that was founded by Dr. Hans J. Langer and Dr. Hans Steinbichler over 25 years ago.    

“MTU is always researching innovative materials and production processes to achieve benefits in cost, weight and function, while maintaining safety,” says the company.  

“The approach is essential in the aerospace industry, with primes looking to increase significantly the efficiency of next-generation aircraft. Airbus, for example, is aiming at a 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption for the A320neo compared with its predecessor.”

More recently, the company has started using the machines for producing nickel alloy borescope bosses, which form part of the turbine housing for the A320neo’s GTF engine and allow the blading to be inspected at intervals for wear and damage using an endoscope, which in the aerospace sector is termed a borescope.

Before they were fabricated through additive manufacturing technology the bosses were cast or milled from a solid in much more expensive and time-consuming procedures.  Among other factors though, it was the decision of cost that led MTU to use additive manufacturing to produces the parts both during the development stage as well as in production.  In addition to the decrease in cost, the decision to create the parts using additive manufacturing technologies also enables the designers and engineers to have more flexibility in creating the part - including the ability to easily remove excess material where it’s not needed.  

“About ten years ago, we began using additive manufacturing to produce tools and development components. To optimise utilisation of the capacity, we went in search of further areas where we could apply the technology,” said Dr. Karl-Heinz Dusel, the Director of Rapid Technologies at MTU.

"The borescope bosses for the low-pressure turbines of the A320neo’s GTF engine were ideal for AM. They are small components riveted to the turbine housing that create openings to allow technicians to check the condition of turbine blades inside the engine.”

Of course, if the bosses prove to be a success, we’re more than likely to see a dramatic increase in the use of airplane parts that are created using additive manufacturing technologies.  

“We see a lot of potential for the manufacture of further series components for aero engine construction, such as bearing housings and turbine airfoils, both of which need to meet the highest demands in terms of safety and reliability (which additive manufacturing provides),” added Dusel.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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