3D printing has made inroads into various industries as an efficient & trusted alternative to traditional methods of design & fabrication. Aviation & Aerospace industries are amongst the ones that stand to gain most from advantages 3D printing brings to New Product Development & Advanced Manufacturing. An area ripe for revolution & currently witnessing a metamorphosis, due to 3D printing technologies, is the design of the jet engine itself. When the first jet engine for civilian use was designed for mass production, humans had yet to land on the moon. However, since 2016, steady progress has been made towards a redesign & re-imagining of the traditional jet engine design.
One way 3D printing helps, is by providing the ability to have lighter & fewer components. 3D Printing parts whole, makes them not only tougher to resist extreme wear & tear experienced in jet engines, but also lighter due to advances in metal 3D printing & material science. This helps jet engines consume less fuel while providing more efficiency & power while doing so.
3D Printing allows complex geometries & hence new technologies to be adopted by engineers. A great example is the new RISE jet engine system announced by GE Aviation. RISE stands for Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines. The engine uses new fuel nozzles that provide ‘Lean burn combustion’. This new technology is sustainable as it can function with 100 percent Sustainable Hydrogen & gives a higher power output as compared to traditional combustion methods for jet engines. Newer designs being pioneered are helping jet engines be even more productive & powerful. Newer design concepts like, ‘open rotor form’, mean the engine blades need not be hidden, helping it to be less dependent on fuel being burnt in the core by drawing in more air.
Jet engines, now being manufactured with 3D printing, have almost 90 percent fewer parts. This allows easier & faster replacement of malfunctioning parts, which can be 3D printed on-site if required. OEMs are also shifting to 3D printing a major chunk of jet engine components, because it is cheaper & faster to produce these parts using 3D printing. This is predicted to lower costs of jet engines in the coming future & also helping make air travel affordable.
The future of air travel looks set to be changed forever, thanks to 3D printed jet engines. Adoption of this technology for manufacturing jet engines, however, still has a lot more to offer if you ask experts in Aviation & Aerospace.