Feb 16, 2016 | By Alec

Tech events are always a fantastic place to learn more about the upcoming trends and developments in certain industries, and Asia’s biggest aviation event – the Singapore Airshow 2016 – is proving no different. Though much is happening at the stands where the cream of the international aviation industry has gathered, more interesting is how the show reflects the new focus of several key companies and the Singaporean government on developing 3D printing solutions for complex aircraft engine parts.

The Singaporean government, of course, is especially focused on creating and maintaining a welcoming climate for innovative technologies and corporations. It is also home to a significant aerospace and aviation industry. About 10 percent of the global industry is located there, consisting of about 130 companies and a $8.3 billion output. This includes numerous international players According to the director of transport engineering for the Economic Development Board, Tan Kong Hwee, that sector has been growing with an annual growth rate of 8 percent over the last decade. That trend, experts say, is only continuing over the coming years and will require new innovations to keep growing.

This is also clearly visible in the program of the Singapore Airshow 2016, which heavily focusing on emerging technologies such as 3D printing. This year, more than 1,000 companies (including 65 global aerospace players) are present at the show, spread out over twenty national pavilions. Over at the special ‘Emerging Technologies’ zone, you can find various technological developments that are growing in importance for the aerospace and aviation industries. According to Singapore Airshow managing director Leck Chet Lam, 3D printing and other additive manufacturing techniques feature heavily and especially interest aviation developers for their ability to produce cost-effective small production runs.

3D printing also featured heavily during the fourth Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum, held yesterday. Organized by the government’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), it was attended by more than 350 delegates from leading aerospace companies worldwide, who discussed the technological future of the sector. There, GE Aviation also talked about ongoing work on a several 3D printed aircraft parts. “We are building on current capabilities to develop Singapore into a globally recognized aerospace economy, capable of providing design, engineering, production and aftermarket services for the world's major aircraft programmes,” Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry, said at the event. Local industry heavyweights ST Aerospace and SIA Engineering also attended the announcement.

GE Aviation is, of course, one of the biggest aviation pioneers involved in the metal 3D printing industry and have already made significant breakthroughs. Showing their commitment to the technology, they even ordered 10 new Arcam metal 3D printers back in December 2015. They also has a very strong presence in Singapore’s aviation industry, and are currently working together with Rolls-Royce and the Singaporean government on advancing 3D printing technology. Though Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation are competitors in daily life, this doesn’t touch technology. “Technology is where you want a common set of standards across the industry, and competition doesn't make a lot of sense,” said Professor Richard Parker, director of research & technology at Rolls-Royce Group.

What’s more, GE’s Singaporean department is also reaching the point where they can practically implement 3D printing - even as a technology for refurbishing worn parts such as turbine blades. This is expected to take place at GE’s Singapore-based engine component repair facility, which has just received an additional $110 million in funding from General Electric. This has been done to ramp up their production capacity, in anticipation of an unprecedented boom in demand for commercial engine overhauls, expected over the next five years. First opened in 1981, this is now one of GE’s largest component repair shops in the world. Among others, they repair and overhaul components such as high pressure compressor, turbine blades, vanes, nozzles and combustors for over 150 different clients, with sales being worth more than a billion dollars over 2015.

Over the next ten years, the funding will be used to develop new repair allays, also involving new robotic technologies and advanced materials, such as super alloys, single crystals and composites. “We saw a 20% increase in one year in parts shipped (1.6 million) last year,” says Dev Rudra, the site’s managing director. “But as fleets start to mature and we start to get into the CFM Leap so the ramp is coming. We don’t know exactly what sort of growth it will be but we could expect it to be significant.” Cold spray, 3D printing and automated laser welding are also on their agenda.

Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, is also not sitting still in Singapore. A member of AStar’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Center at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), they are involved in the development of a number of aviation technologies in Singapore, including surface enhancement, repair and restoration; robotics and 3D printing.

Rolls-Royce is also ramping up production for their engine assembly plant in Seletar, Singapore. Eighty engines were assembled there over 2015, with the goal being to expand that to 250 per year by the end of 2017, revealed Bicky Bhangu, Rolls-Royce director for Singapore. New technologies and state-of-the-art engines are also expected to be constructed there, such as the Trent 7000 for the Airbus A330ne0, even though most of those were previously only manufactured in Europe. And with Rolls-Royce’s European division heavily involved with 3D printed engine parts, Singapore is quickly turning into a hotbed of aircraft innovation. One thing is clear: metal 3D printing for the aviation industry is soaring in Singapore.

 

 

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Michael wrote at 2/19/2016 3:36:18 PM:

The upcoming "Singapore Aviation Safety Seminar" event jointly organised by Singapore Aviation Academy and Flight Safety Foundation will be held at the Singapore Aviation Academy from 14 to 18 March 2016. This event consists of 3 different seminars - "Maintenance and Engineering" seminar will be from 14 to 15 March 2016, Info-share on 16 March 2016 and "Flight Operations" seminar will be from 17 to 18 March 2016. 3D printing of aircraft parts will be one of the many other interesting topics to be presented in the Maintenance and Engineering Seminar.



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