GE Additive, granted FAA’s approval to install the first 3D printed part on GEnx’ commercial airline engines

One of the big challenges in the use of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry is certification of parts. 3D printing might seem the easy task in this process because in the end, if the part has not been approved by aviation authorities, it will not be installed on an airplane.

So, any approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) marks a moment of celebration for professionals of this industry. It is one of these moments for GE Aviation today.

The FAA has recently given ‘change in design’ approval to replace a “traditionally” manufactured power door opening system (PDOS) bracket with an additively manufactured bracket.

The PDOS bracket is used on GE Aviation’s GEnx-2B commercial airline engines that power the Boeing 747-8.

From conventional technique to AM technique

Engineers used the milling process to manufacture the original PDOS brackets on the GEnx-2B engines. They lost about 50% of material using this technique. However, the direct metal laser melting (DMLM) additive technology will enable them to reduce this waste by 90%.

Experts chose a cobalt-chrome alloy over a traditional nickel-based superalloy to build faster. Furthermore, they will manufacture 4 brackets at the same time.

Using a bespoke, interlocking design to house all four brackets on a single build plate, the Concept Laser M2 cusing machine’s pair of lasers can print an aircraft’s worth of brackets in one build, before post-processing and inspection.

To ensure the M2 cusing machines were certified to meet the strict requirements for the aerospace industry, collaboration on this program has been closer than usual with our colleagues at GE Additive. As we continue thinking about the many parts we can design, redesign and manufacture on GE Additive machines, I’m looking forward to putting both our teams and the technology through their paces,” said Eric Gatlin, general manager, additive integrated product team, GE Aviation.

Lastly, GE Aviation will rely on its in-house production systems in order to reduce production costs.

We chose this project because it represented several firsts for us. It’s the first program we certified on a Concept Laser machine. It’s also the first project we took from design to production in less than ten months, Gatlin added.

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