Nov 9, 2015 | By Alec

Regular readers will doubtlessly know that complex 3D printed parts are now even being used for developing spacecraft engines, but how would you feel about a 3D printed engine being used for your own commercial flight? Engine experts Rolls-Royce has just revealed that it has taken their latest and insanely powerful Trent XWB-97 Airbus engine, which features 3D printed parts, on its first ever testflight. It is the most powerful aero-engine their engineers have ever made.

The iconic British Rolls-Royce company designed and developed this engine in their civil aerospace division, near the company’s former HQ in Sinfin, Derby, England. This latest Trent XWB-97 is a more powerful version of the already widely used Trent XWB engine, among others on the Airbus A350 XWB. The 97 in the name refers to the insane amount of thrust this new engine is capable of producing: 97,000 lbs. The purpose of this new engine is to power to upcoming Airbus giant A350-1000, which is due to enter service in 2017.

This first test flight was done in anticipation of that future, and was attached to an A380 flying in Toulouse, France, where the company is currently headquartered. On this particular flight, the engine replaced of the four usual Trent 900 engines. Its flying success marks an important milestone, as the engine has been under development since 2013. It’s front bearing housing features 3D printed aerofolds, which have been 3D printed in collaboration with engineers from the University of Sheffield.

These aerofolds not the only 3D printing project in the Rolls-Royce pipeline, which they say has enabled them to speed up design and development. They are also using 3D printing as a prototyping tool. In this particular engine, it has sped up manufacture of parts by about a third, and Rolls-Royce have stated that they believe the technology still has the potential to greatly improve manufacturing even further in respect to design, costs and speed. ‘It was a great moment to see the latest version of the Trent XWB take to the air for the first time. The first flight is the product of years of work and marks another programme delivery milestone,’ Gareth Davies, Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB programme director, told the Derby Telegraph.

This suggests that we will be seeing a lot more of 3D printed airplane parts, especially as the Trent engine series is very well respected in the industry – the Trent XWB is called the most efficient civil aircraft engine. More than 1,500 engines have already been sold to 41 customers, and the XWB-84 version is currently in use by Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Finnair.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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James wrote at 11/9/2015 9:08:13 PM:

It would great in these articles to know what 3D printer they used to manufacture the parts.

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