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PARIS: Safran pushes 3-D printing and hybrid APUs

Safran is calling attention to recent advancements in the state of auxiliary power units (APU), showcasing parts printed using three-dimensional manufacturing and unveiling plans to develop hybrid-electric APUs.

The company has just received certification from EASA for a 3D-printed nickel-based turbine nozzle in the company's eAPU, a model found on Leonardo AW189 helicopters.

Safran chief executive François Tarel says the certification validates 3D manufacturing for engine components that are subject to immense temperatures.

"It opens the ability to use 3D printing for core engine parts," Tarel says. "The quality and certification of this part is very stringent."

Parts manufactured using 3D printing can weigh 35% less than traditional components and have significantly shorter development times, Tarel says.

For instance, while traditional metallic parts require procurement of expensive tooling and machining equipment, a 3D-printed component can be manufactured "in a matter of hours or days", he says.

Safran expects to certify this year such components in APUs on aircraft including Dassault's Falcon FX and Bombardier's Global 7000, he adds.

The next step will be to bring the technology to the commercial air transport market.

Meanwhile, Safran is developing hybrid APUs – units with both gas turbines and fuel cells. Safran expects its hybrid APUs will be available in 2019 or 2020, Tarel adds.

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