Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne with help from the CSIRO and Deakin University have printed not one, but two metal jet engines.
The proof-of-concept prototype in partnership with the Monash’s commercial arm, Amaero Engineering, has already piqued the interest of international aerospace companies, such as Airbus, Raytheon and Boeing.
The use of 3D printing in the aerospace industry can help with reducing the length of time spent on a project, creating a lighter engine while reducing operational and production costs, according to a white paper by Smarttech. The use of a printed model can reduce waste by up to 90%, leading not only to a reduction of cost, but also a reduction in the environmental impact from manufacturing.
Researchers were provided an old auxiliary powered gas turbine engine by French aerospace supplier Safran that could be pulled apart and copied using a 3D printer. The process, known as additive manufacturing, allows the powder form of metals to be melted and then fused together into objects using a laser.
“It was our chance to prove what we could do,” Professor Xinhua Wu, the director of the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing, said in a statement. “We took the engine to pieces and scanned the components. Then we printed two copies.”
This technology allows for simpler production techniques — such as printing two components at once — and designs to be tweaked more easily and parts to be printed as needed.
The researchers are currently doing cost analysis to discover the parts worthwhile to 3D print, compared with parts that should remain manufactured in the traditional way. Testing is also underway to see what parts of the prototype would be feasible to produce on a larger scale for aerospace companies. Already, Amaero has been commissioned to make hundreds of prototype fuel injectors for testing.
Ben Batagol, business development manager for Amaero Engineering, said: “It was a challenge for the team and pushed the technology to new heights of success –- no one has printed an entire engine commercially yet.”
3D printing in the aerospace industry has been around for decades, but emerging technology that allows the melting of metal powders is opening up the door to the possibilities for widespread use and exciting developments in the field.
BONUS: What Is 3D Printing and How Does It Work?
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