Jun 22, 2017 | By David

The Paris Air Show is always a major event for the global aerospace industry, and a great opportunity to see what changes it will be undergoing in the near future. This year was no exception, as it appears that manufacturing giant GE is due to capitalize on the increasing popularity of 3D printing technology in a serious way. The company's implementation of additive manufacturing techniques in the production of jet engines was the primary reason for its receiving more than $31 billion of new business at the show.

3D printing is slowly but surely asserting its position as the go-to technology for fast prototyping in the aerospace industry, as well as for the low-cost production of titanium components with complex geometries. The technology has proved particularly useful for making engine parts for next-generation passenger jets, which were a dominant presence at this year’s Paris Air Show.

Most of GE’s new business will be coming from these 3D printed engine parts, built primarily for the new line of LEAP jet engines. LEAP engines make use of 3D printed fuel nozzles, and were developed in a joint venture between GE and France’s Safran Aircraft Engines known as CFM International. CFM International received around 1,650 orders for LEAP engines at the show, amongst other engines. In total the orders equate to around $27 billion, making up the vast majority of GE’s $31 billion of new business.

One particularly unique element of LEAP engines is the efficiency with which they can mix and inject fuel. This relies on a complex geometry that only 3D printing technology could produce. LEAP engines also make use of special materials, so-called "super ceramics," matrix composites that are as tough as metal, but which are much lighter and can withstand much higher temperatures. Effective operation at 2400 degrees F is possible with them, which is a full 500 degrees hotter than the most advanced alloys. The "super ceramics" also enable construction of lighter components that require less cooling air, generate more power, and burn less fuel.

This combination of material properties, along with the intricate 3D printed geometry, purportedly makes LEAP engines an ideal option for aircraft manufacturers and airlines looking to lower costs as well as improving efficiency. The impact on the environment is also significantly less.

The aviation sector is currently booming, with predictions from the International Air Travel Association suggesting that there will be an estimated seven percent increase in global passenger volume in 2017. The number of planes is also set to increase by around four percent. Next generation, single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX, and China’s COMAC C919 represent the fastest-growing part of the market, and it was this kind of plane that the LEAP engines were designed for. The engines entered service last year and have already safely carried more than five million passengers for airlines like AirAsia, easyJet, Frontier, WOW air, and SAS.

GE’s influence over the aerospace industry is not just limited to engines. The company's Predix software, which analyzes data over a large network and gives an indication of when particular engines will need servicing, is being used to monitor over 35,000 engines. This enables airlines to work these engines much harder than before. Currently there are 69 planes in service that use LEAP engines. They fly for an average of more than 10 hours a day, achieving an impressive 96 percent utilization. The higher the utilization, the more money the airline can make.

As long as GE continues its groundbreaking work with 3D printing and other technologies, and keeps providing the aerospace sector with what it needs to advance and thrive, it’s likely to see more and more of the kind of success stories that this year’s Paris Air Show represented.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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