GE runs firsts tests on 3D-printed micro turbine

GE Aviation has run a 3D-printed micro jet turbine up to 33,000rpm, marking the first known test of a jet engine built using additive manufacturing.

The project and test revealed on 7 May launched with a jet engine designed for the hobbyist, remote-controlled aircraft market, GE says in a video posted online on 7 May.

The company used EOS M270 machines and a direct metal laser melting process to build about a dozen major components, including a centrifugal compressor stage.

Some additional machining and polishing work was required after the components emerged from the 3D printers.

The materials included “high-strength, high-temperature alloys” that are usually unavailable to the hobbyist engine market, GE says.

The first engine was assembled with a data acquisition system to measure parameters such as exhaust gas temperature, engine speed and thrust.

The online video showed two test runs in a special chamber at GE’s headquarters in Evandale, Ohio. On the second run the video indicates that the turbine achieved a rotational speed of 33,000rpm.

The GE test comes more than two months after a similar project was revealed at the Avalon air show in Australia.

Monash University and Safran announced successfully building two turbine engines based on the design of the Microturbo Saphir auxiliary power unit.

But project officials did not expect to run tests on the engines for at least another year.

GE has been among the most aggressive aerospace manufacturers to develop 3D printed parts.

A fuel nozzle disc in the CFM International Leap engine, which GE produces with Snecma, is being produced using a 3D printer. GE subsidiary Avio is also printing the titanium aluminide blade in the low pressure turbine for the GE9X engine, which will power the Boeing 777X.

Last month, GE also announced receiving approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to begin retrofitting a 3D-printed housing for the T25 sensor in the high-pressure compressor of the GE90-94B.

Related Content