Dec 28, 2017 | By Benedict

GE has successfully tested its Advanced Turboprop (ATP) engine, which contains several titanium 3D printed parts. Additive manufacturing has enabled GE to combine 855 separate parts of the engine into just 12.

Over the last two years, around 400 designers, engineers, and materials experts at GE have contributed to the creation of the Advanced Turboprop engine, one-third of which is made from titanium 3D printed parts. It’s a momentous achievement for GE, and last Friday the engine passed its first firing test.

“This is a pivotal moment,” commented Paul Corkery, general manager of the Advanced Turboprop program at GE. “We now have a working engine.”

GE’s new civilian turboprop engine, made for use in commercial aircraft, has been built with “dozens” of new technologies, including additive manufacturing. A non-printed engine of this sort would normally contain 855 separate components, but by using 3D printing, GE was able to reduce that number to just 12.

There are massive advantages to this reduction in total components. More than 100 pounds in weight has been taken off the engine, whose fuel burn has been improved by as much as 20 percent, giving it 10 percent more power while also simplifying maintenance.

GE's Stephen Erickson with the partially 3D printed ATP engine

(Image: Tomas Kellner / GE Reports)

But if the 3D printing innovation alone makes the ATP sound impressive, there’s much more going on inside the engine to wow aviation enthusiasts. Some parts in the engine’s compressor, for example, were originally developed for supersonic engines. These variable vanes will allow the ATP to fly efficiently even in thin air at high altitudes.

Another impressive feature of the 3D printed engine is its digital control system, which will allow pilots to fly ATP-equipped aircraft like a jet, using a single lever instead of three. The new Cessna Denali from Textron will be the first plane to use the engine.

Last Friday’s critical testing of the 3D printed engine took place in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Over the fall period, workers at the GE Aviation factory in Prague assembled the ATP engine in a room next to one of the building’s test cells, which is equipped with a number of cameras for spotting fuel leaks and which is protected by thick steel-and-concrete doors. By December, the engine was ready to be transported via a cart into the test cell.

GE's ATP engine passed its first firing test last Friday

Setting up the engine for testing involved connecting the ATP to a boxy water brake, which simulates the torque cause by the propeller, and connecting the engine to tubes that supply air, fuel and oil, and removing exhaust. Hundreds of wires, tubes, and cables were then used to connect the engine to special sensors which collect information about factors like vibrations, torque, and thrust.

One floor above the test cell is a control room where GE staff could safely observe the testing. This area is also where data from the sensors is gathered for analysis, with a number of precious servers used to hold this information, as well as all the information gathered over the engine’s development period, from Prague and elsewhere. At the Technical University of Munich, for example, GE engineers recently put a compressor with variable vanes through its paces.

Excitingly, the successful testing of the 3D printed ATP is just the beginning for GE. “We are moving from design and development to the next phase of the program, ending with certification,” Corkery said. GE hopes to have the engine certified for passenger flight over the next two years.

The ATP engine will be used in Textron's new Cessna Denali

The next step, however, involves opening five more test cells, allowing GE to build nine more test ATP engines for battery testing. GE hopes the engines will then be certified for flight after being put through altitude, performance, and high-vibration testing, as well as testing on the wing of a flying “test bed.”

GE, with some justification, is presenting no false modesty about its new 3D printed ATP engine: “This engine is a game changer,” Corkery said.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive