The printed plane engine has arrived.
This week GE released this great GIF of its 1,300-horsepower advanced turboprop (ATP) engine in which more than one-third of the components have been built through additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. The company is showing off its creation in real life at this week’s big air show in Oshkosh, WI.
Additive manufacturing is responsible for the engine’s power gearbox, as well as the combustion chamber at the heart of the compact design. GE claims its creation has a 16:1 overall pressure ratio (OPR) and burns 15 percent less fuel than previous designs.
GE says it will begin testing the engine later this year in advance of potential flight tests in 2018. The engine would go into the upcoming Cessna Denali, a 10-seater plane by Textron Aviation. And while it’s cool that printing engine parts is now a reality, GE says novelty isn’t the point:
The result of more than a decade of research and development, GE will produce parts of the engine through several processes pioneered by company, including direct metal laser melting. These techniques produce an engine with approximately 30 percent fewer parts than a conventional turboprop while reducing the number of steps and inspections involved in the engine’s manufacture. The design also eliminates the risk of losses and leakages from joints — by eliminating the joints entirely.