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Australia Transportation Build Technology

Researchers Create World's First 3D-Printed Jet Engines 58

Zothecula writes: Working with colleagues from Deakin University and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), researchers from Australia's Monash University have created the world's first 3D-printed jet engine. While they were at it, they created the world's second one, too. One of them is currently on display at the International Air Show in Avalon, Australia, while the other can be seen at the headquarters of French aerospace company Microturbo, in Toulouse.
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Researchers Create World's First 3D-Printed Jet Engines

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  • No word on whether the thing was ever powered up, or is simply a neat toy.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:32AM (#49147075)

      No word on whether the thing was ever powered up, or is simply a neat toy.

      From the gizmodo link:

      According to Wu, the next step will be to fine-tune the finish of the components, with testing of a 3D-printed engine expected to take place within a couple of years.

      So what the have produced right now could be considered a static display model, but their aim is produce a working engine.

      • i want to see them 3d print a turbine blade. those fuckers are not easy to produce, and i dont think a 3d printed one would hold up.
        • Yeah, a printed turbine could run in a de-rated or less efficient engine, but the turbine wheel is THE most critical part of a good engine.
        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @12:27PM (#49147893) Homepage

          Laser sintering of titanium is a well established process and should produce excellent turbine blades. 3d printing plus thermal spraying (a new one I've seen uses a form of laser spraying) might actually be able to produce parts better than would be possibly by any other means (such as machining cast metal) because you're not only heating the grains to join them together, but compacting them at high velocity.

          Even for the more "primitive" 3d printing metal techs, they're just lost wax casting where the original mold is 3d printed. So the results are no worse than any other lost wax cast metal.

          And yes, I was hopeful that this was a fully finished, working product. And that I'd be able to download the model. There's little that I'd be willing to pay the premium of laser titanium sintering for, but a micro jet turbine is one of those things. ;)

          • Even for the more "primitive" 3d printing metal techs, they're just lost wax casting where the original mold is 3d printed. So the results are no worse than any other lost wax cast metal.

            The problem with lost-wax and other molded metals is that the fatigue strength is much lower than forged or machined parts. Tolerances are also much looser because the tolerances from each step - wax positive, ceramic negative, poured positive, etc. add up. Fatigue life might not be an issue for a model airplane engine, but it is a safety issue for anything carrying humans.

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              The precision is actually pretty impressive, I've had a model I designed printed out in brass before, and some of the detail, I can't imagine milling achieving it. But yeah, no question that milling or sintering will get your stronger parts.

            • by slacktide ( 796664 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @01:20PM (#49148399)
              Many commercial jet aircraft components are produced with lost wax casting using titanium, with subsequent hot isostatic pressing. (HIP.) Source: I am a propulsion design engineer at an large commercial aircraft manufacturer. Also "3D Printing" (we call it additive manufacturing) has been used in the aircraft industry for at least 10 years that I have experience with, although it is typically used for either tooling or test parts. I few a 3D printed titanium exhaust duct on a flight test in 2010, then implemented the same part for production using conventional manufacturing methods. 304 of them in service so far with no issues.
        • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @03:37PM (#49149537) Journal
          3D-printed metal has been used for quite a while in some of the lower-performance stages (lower pressure, lower temperature). Examples here [google.com]. The key benefit is that they are able to integrate convoluted channels within the structure for cooling or mixing. You can also reduce weight by taking away significant internal volume, replacing it with ribs or a sparse matrix. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's mainstream, but it's close.
      • by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @11:25AM (#49147425)
        Here's a video of Elon Musk printing titanium engine components way back in 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
      • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @12:25PM (#49147881)

        Which actually means ... they haven't produced a 3d printed turbine. They've produced a model of one. Higher quality than I can produce, sure, but not one thats actually any more useful than one I can produce.

        This is a really good example of a stupid place to 3d print something, you're not going to get the strength you can get in traditional manufacturing techniques, its going to cost way more and you'll never find anyone with a clue about mechanical engineering trusting his/her life to one.

      • as in 10,000 hours between minors, and 50,000 hours between major rebuilds.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      That is what I wonder about as well. Sintering requires heat, so that makes me wonder if the metal can handle the high temperatures that a turbine spins at.

      However, TFA states a 3D printed rocket engine was made and actually used by UCSD researches in 2013, so there is a good chance that this can be made to function.

      The rocket was 3D printed via DMLS, but then "hardened, polished, and assembled." I have zero clue on the hardening method, because non-ferrous metals can't be really heated and quenched.

      I'm h

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        Microturbines are one of those few things where 3d printing might actually prove an economical means of production - the keys being small, intricate, and very expensive.

        I wonder how effective it'd be to print out one of these [enstroj.si], minus the windings. They've got crazy power output (up to 100kW sustained / 200kW peak) and efficiency (up to 98%) in a motor small enough (20kg; significantly less without the windings) to make a 3d printing service (or more realistically in this case, a custom CNC milling service) c

        • by mlts ( 1038732 )

          For a more pedestrian use, there is one thing that an engine like this that has a specific power band range would be ideal at... and that would be a generator. Here in the US, it would need to be geared to 3600 RPM unless an inverter is used.

          If they were this efficient that they could get that much power output, it might be something to have as a backup generator for a house, as it could run from natural gas, propane, gasoline, or diesel.

          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            Are you talking about what I was talking about? I was talking about an electric motor, not a fuel-driven one.

  • "According to Wu, the next step will be to fine-tune the finish of the components, with testing of a 3D-printed engine expected to take place within a couple of years."
  • Clickbaity hype like this doesn't just waste my time, it tends to cause apathy and skepticism of science and engineering in the populace at large. Stop it.
  • by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @10:58AM (#49147235)

    It is just a display model, but this is actually one of the applications of 3D printing worth getting excited about.

    Jet engines are a good candidate because they are low volume, high margin, and the current designs are compromised somewhat by the existing manufacturing technologies available. The ability to make more complex aerodynamic forms, create single parts with variations in material composition throughout, and the potential to speed up development and testing of different designs is huge for this industry.

    However there are still a lot of issues to work through, and I’m not sure how they are ever going to produce a sintered turbine blade that can perform as well as an existing one. I would imagine much of their research is going into this area but these are tough problems to solve.

    • The limitations of the existing manufacturing technologies really aren't in the realm of designing new parts or putting them together. It's keeping them together after the thing has been spinning for a couple thousand hours. Computerized CNC is a well advanced, constantly improving technology that works pretty well. You just don't slap a new turbine spindle in an engine and blast down the runway - you have to test it for hundreds of hours before you even put it under the wing.

      So 3D 'printing' (which isn'

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Jet engines are an awful candidate. The tolerances and material requirements to not tear themselves apart are tremendous. We're talking about turbine blades spinning at 5k-45k RPM, at temperatures of several hundred degrees, and pressures far above atmospheric, and an airstream a few hundred MPH in velocity.

      The inspection process for the individual blades, and then then for their attachment to the mount, to ensure that an imbalance doesn't destroy the engine is tremendously demanding.

      • Jet engines are an awful candidate. The tolerances and material requirements to not tear themselves apart are tremendous. We're talking about turbine blades spinning at 5k-45k RPM, at temperatures of several hundred degrees, and pressures far above atmospheric, and an airstream a few hundred MPH in velocity.

        The inspection process for the individual blades, and then then for their attachment to the mount, to ensure that an imbalance doesn't destroy the engine is tremendously demanding.

        On the other hand, there is a case to be made for an aim-for-the-stars strategy. If you can build a turbine blade you can build anything. I would have thought compressor blades would be a much more likely candidate, but if they can get this to work, more power to them. And maybe 3d printing will give them options they would not otherwise have: internal bleed air cooling channels that follow the leading edge along its curvature, for instance. It's possible that given completely different design and manuf

    • compromised somewhat by the existing manufacturing technologies available.

      Yea, like strength of materials ... guess what you're not getting out of something 3d printed ...

      This is a stupid place to use 3d printing.

      Its fine research for other things, but turbines aren't so low a volume that it makes sense to print them. They are pretty trivial to make using traditional methods and are easy to make reliable using traditional methods. It is FAR easier to make a safe turbine than it is a V8 internal combustion engine like in most cars, which is why so many aircraft use turbines (exc

    • speed up development and testing? I'd guess they have computer models for that, waiting for a printer takes time
  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Friday February 27, 2015 @11:01AM (#49147259) Homepage

    If they can create the parts that fast, why don't they just power it up, see which parts fail, and improve those, rather than trying to improve it before testing? After all, they can reprint broken/worn parts (and probably reassemble) within a 2-3 week period.

    Granted, I know the grad students and postdocs need to write their papers, and I know sintered metal isn't always as strong as parts made via other methods, but two years seems a bit long for the fire-up process.

  • Yes, it's made from metal, which is very cool! But aircraft components undergo rigorous inspection looking for cracks, defects, etc in the structure of the metal itself. Will this 3D-printed metal meet those standards?
    • That's not the problem. The problem it it has been done before for rocket engines that have actually been fired up - the metals used were superalloys, in SpaceX case Inconel specifically. Those rocket engines have been in use for some time - and the problem with this story is that it lacks credibility in the "we're first' market for several reasons.

  • Isn't the process used laser metal sintering? There's no need to use trendy buzzwords ("3-d printing") that give the false impression that this is a new technique that a hobbyist could do in his basement, when really this is just a variation of a well established industrial process, that requires large industrial tooling.
  • They want me to trust my life to this thing!

  • Another stupid 3D printing story....

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