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Companies want to embrace 3D-printed aerospace parts, hoping to reduce production time  (Source: Rolls Royce)
Researchers from Australia are helping develop 3D-printed jet engines, with great expectations for future development

Engineers from Monash University in Australia and Amaero Engineering have created the world’s first 3D-printed jet engine. 

The proof of concept was developed after a challenge from aerospace firm Safran, with the French company providing an old engine.  Researchers disassembled an old engine and began manufacturing a new one for them, which took about one year to complete.

The 3D-printed jet engine made by researchers in Australia [Image Source: AFP]

A second jet engine was completed in three months.  The first one was transferred to Safran, while the second engine is on display at the Avalon Airshow.  Researchers are working on plans for a third engine, which will use materials that are even lighter. 

If all goes according to plan, Amaero hopes to have 3D-printed components tested within one year, and with commercial certification within three years.  The company has contracts in place with Boeing and Airbus to help explore 3D-printing technology, and could help increase future production and purchase new large format printers.

“This will allow aerospace companies to compress their development cycles because we are making these prototype engines three or four times faster than normal,” said Simon Marriott, CEO of Amaero Engineering, in a statement made to Reuters.

[Image Source: ABC News]

Along with faster manufacturing lead times, 3D printing gives engineers the chance to make complex parts that can be difficult to machine cast.  The 3D-printed engines utilized a high-power laser that fused aluminum, titanium, nickel and other materials printed layer-by-layer until completed.

Traditionally, 3D printing has been used in the automotive and aerospace industries to help create 3D prototypes, moldings, and custom tools that are used on traditional engines.  Embracing 3D printing makes new designs possible, with more intricate parts being manufactured.

The use of 3D printing among aerospace companies is increasing among leading companies, and that will continue.  However, it could be decades before a full 3D-printed aircraft is possible, however, companies will produce 3D-printed parts and accessories for use in the cockpit and jet engines.

Research into 3D printing for the aerospace industry is increasing at a fast pace [Image Source: GE Aviation]

Private defense contractor BAE Systems discussed 3D printing in 2014, expecting possible military and civilian aircraft breakthroughs by 2040, or even sooner.  The company unveiled public concepts of 3D printers able to print UAVs during a mission, with expectations that it could one day be possible to 3D print an entire UAV.

Meanwhile, GE Aviation and Safran have created at least 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles that couldn’t be manufactured in a traditional manner.  Both companies plan to introduce the 3D-printeed parts in an aircraft engine platform in 2016, with hopes of increased performance.

Sources: Monash University [press release], via Business Insider





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