Dec 19, 2017 | By Tess

A group of students at the University of Glasgow in Scotland by the name of JetX Engineering, have created a 3D printed jet engine called the X-Plorer 1. And while the 3D printed engine doesn’t actually burn fuel, it does have a number of functionalities that a real jet engine would.

JetX Engineering, which defines itself as a “club for jet engine enthusiasts,” was founded in 2014 and has brought together students from the University of Glasgow for the purpose of building jet engines models from scratch using digital design and 3D printing technologies.

The impressive model, which has been in development since 2014 and completed its testing phase last year, consists of 150 3D printed parts, all designed and engineered by the 40-person group.

As you can imagine, producing the X-Plorer 1 engine was no small feat, as it required roughly 1,800 hours of 3D printing and used nearly 3 km of filament.

Before the 3D printing stage even came into play, however, the JetX Engineering team had to painstakingly design the jet engine’s structure, basically from the ground up. The group describes the design process as “one of the lengthiest stages of the project” because of its “intensive theoretical and modelling work.”

In short, the team discussed what type of jet engine they would design (a high-bypass turbofan), established a set of parameters (including a bypass ratio of 5:1, a fan diameter of 26.15 cm, a total length of 72 cm, etc.) and set about creating a functional 3D model of the X-Plorer 1.

“Based on three specifications, a theoretical model for an engine of this size and capacity was constructed, primarily for the compressor, turbine and exhaust sections. Often these models assumed combustion taking place, later attempting to exclude this effect to predict the behaviour of the prototype,” explains the JetX Engineering website.

Once the digital 3D model of the X-Plorer 1 engine was complete and simulations had been run to test its flow and load bearing capabilities, the team set about 3D printing the engine’s various parts using polymer-based FDM/FFF 3D printing technologies.

As the team explains, it relied on its DreamMaker OverLord Pro 3D printer and used a range of PLA, ABS, nylon, and PETG filaments for the project. “FFF was the only 3D printing technology used for the X-Plorer 1 and throughout the year-long testing phase, we managed to optimize the process for the printer and plastic used to achieve a major increase in success rates,” writes the team.

Virtually every non-electrical part of the jet engine was 3D printed, from small temperature sensor brackets (which took only minutes to 3D print), to the main PCU casing for the engine (which reportedly took over 58 hours to print and used 105 meters of filament).

Of course, because the jet engine is made of plastic parts, it is not quite fully functional as it cannot burn fuel. Still, the researchers equipped the model with a complex electronics system (consisting of micro-controllers, and loads of sensors) and used compressed air to test the air flow of the 3D printed jet engine to test its efficiency.

Since finalizing its X-Plorer 1 jet engine, JetX Engineering has attracted a number of new participants and has launched two new engine projects: the X-Plorer 2 and Kronos, which will reportedly focus “on the development of a low bypass military jet engine that will aim to balance cruise and combat performance.” Due to a high level of interest, the group is also planning to expand into other universities in the future.

(Images: JetX Engineering)



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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