Two GE Aviation facilities producing advanced jet engine components recently passed major manufacturing milestones. GE Aviation’s Auburn, Alabama, facility recently shipped its 100,000th 3D printed nozzle tip, while the Asheville, North Carolina, facility recently shipped its 100,000th turbine shroud made from Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) materials (not 3D printed).
The Auburn site began producing the additively manufactured fuel nozzles in 2015 and was the industry’s first mass manufacturing site for producing aircraft engine parts using additive manufacturing. By 2018 30,000 fuel nozzle tips had been produced meaning production rates have more than doubled over the past three years. The Asheville facility, which began producing CMCs in 2014, is the aviation industry’s first mass manufacturing site for jet engine components made from CMCs, an advanced material containing silicon carbide fibers. CMC is one-third the weight of traditional metal alloys with two times the temperature capability, helping improve engine thermal efficiency, thus reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Both parts are made for the CFM LEAP engine, which entered revenue service in 2016 and surpassed 10 million flight hours earlier this year. LEAP engines are a product of CFM International, a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines. The fleet is providing operators with 15% better fuel efficiency than previous-generation engines. Each engine has 18 shrouds and 18 or 19 fuel nozzles, depending on the specific model.
In Asheville and Auburn, GE Aviation employees helped establish new processes to mass-produce parts with CMC materials and additive methods, then scaled the technology over time, while improving and maintaining production quality.
“We opened the industry’s first site for mass production using the additive manufacturing process, and to achieve this milestone affirms our plans and investments were on target,” said Eric Gatlin, additive general manager for GE Aviation. “There is a bright and exciting future for this technology.”
GE Aviation is an operating unit of General Electric (NYSE: GE), a world-leading provider of jet engines, components and systems for commercial and military aircraft. GE Aviation has a global service network to support these offerings and works directly with GE Additive on mass-producing 3D printed parts, leveraging both laser and electron beam metal PBF technologies.