GE Additive has completed projects that are a kind of milestone in the perception of incremental technologies. A few months ago, the Boeing 777X was sent on its first flight, equipped with an engine with 3D printed elements by GE Additive. The flight was successful, which is a huge success for GE Additive and GE Aviation, which continue to implement demanding projects for the aviation industry.
Last year, companies began working with the United States Air Force to accelerate the adaptation of additive technology as a spare parts production method. As part of the collaboration, the first 3D printed element of the F110 jet engine, used in F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, was developed. The possibility of producing an additive oil pan cover will reduce the risk of interruption in production due to logistical problems, and will also allow the creation of spare parts for older engine models.
The sump cover in a turbojet engine is an important element of the engine oil lubrication system, therefore its tightness is a priority. James Bonar, technical manager at GE Additive, says that the 3D printed part of the cover must be durable and provide adequate sealing. He says the part must be functional for the entire engine to work, which is crucial for a single-engine aircraft such as the F-16.
Companies are trying to develop 3D printing technology due to design flexibility and speed of implementing innovations. GE engineers used the possibility of creating custom geometries while designing GEnx aircraft engines. 3D printing of the elements made it possible to reduce the weight of the engine, which translated into less fuel consumption. GE boasts that it is the most economical jet engine it has ever produced. Its fuel consumption is 10 percent lower than that of competitors’ engines.
The oil pan cover is traditionally made of aluminum casting. The printed part was made of cobalt-chrome powder on a GE Laser Concept Concept M2 machine. Soon, the team will implement the next stage of the project, i.e. the reconstruction of the oil pan in the TF34 engine over 40 years old.