3D printer produced engine nozzle
In a bold move to acquire technology that could transform factory production in the coming decades, General Electric announced it will spend $1.4 billion buying two European makers of 3D printers to expand use for the manufacture of components like aircraft parts. The biggest maker of aircraft engines said its first jet engine parts, called fuel nozzle interiors, made with the technology were introduced into service in July, paving the way for wider use.
The global market for 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is growing as companies like GE increasingly move toward commercial parts production from making prototypes, writes Industry Week (Sept.6, 2016). The aviation industry was one of the early adopters because it allows for more complex designs, helping to lower the weight of parts and cutting back on waste of expensive materials on factory floors. GE Aviation has said it expects to print more than 100,000 parts for its jet engines by 2020. Companies are now starting to use them to actually produce parts, buying bigger numbers of machines.
3-D printers build an object by thinly layering materials such as plastic powder, metal or liquid resin, following instructions from a computer-drawn blueprint. They are used to make components including car parts and surgical implants. GE’s fuel nozzles made using 3D printing are the best known example of the use of the technology in the industry, but airplane makers Boeing and Airbus are also working on the process. Airbus is starting to incorporate 3D-designed parts on a test basis and says plane content produced with the technology will grow substantially in the coming years.
Classroom discussion questions:
- What are the advantages of 3D printing of parts?
- Describe the current status of 3D printers for business and personal use.