The world’s first 3D printed jet engine – backgrounder 

Embargoed, Monash University Technology Research Platforms

Background information

This is a summary of resources supporting the ‘World’s first 3D printed jet engine’ and ‘Melbourne’s 3D jet engine technology flies into production in France’. Media releases, online copy and live links at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/monash-uni

HD footage of the printing machines and the engine

Monash University: Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing

Shows: 3D printed metal parts, Professor Xinhua Wu with printed jet engine, Concept Laser X-Line 1000R machine (powder bed 3D printing machine – the largest selective laser melting (SLM) machine currently available), laser over base plate in blown powder machine, large shot of the blown powder printing machine.

For HD images visit: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/monash-uni/photos-jet-engine

Web links

Amaero: www.amaero.com.au

Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing: https://platforms.monash.edu/mcam

Safran: www.safran-group.com

ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals: www.arclightmetals.org.au/index.html

Additive manufacturing (3D printing)

3D printing has been used since the 1980s by the aerospace industry, usually to produce prototypes. With more complex, expensive printing machines being built in recent years (such as those with lasers to melt metal powders – used by MCAM), more opportunities for different materials and therefore different applications are opening up. Printing in metals has its challenges, including the high temperatures required and safety issues that accompany them.

A SmarTech report (http://smartechpublishing.com/blog/white-paper-additive-manufacturing-in-aerospace-strategic-implications) suggested the main benefits to the aerospace industry are: reduction in lead time (the time between the beginning and completion of a project/process); reducing the weight of parts; reducing operational and production costs; and reducing impact on the environment from production processes – though the actualities may not meet some expectations.

Some designs that might require multiple parts to be created and then fused are able to be printed in one piece, and designs easily tweaked. Materials waste can reportedly be reduced by as much as 90 per cent – which means a significant saving when using expensive materials such as titanium. There is also the benefit of being able to print parts on an as-needed basis rather than stockpiling replacements, and cutting the need for moulds and tools.

Getting access to 3D printing

Monash Additive Manufacturing is unique in its access to a range of specialists from disciplines including material science, surface engineering, and alloy design and processing, in combination with the commercial production opportunities that Amaero, its business arm, brings.

3D printing allows precise construction of complex shapes and parts, prototypes, and unique tools, all with minimal material waste.  Monash welcomes discussion with Australian businesses (small and large) about opportunities for collaboration in other areas – such as biomedicine, which presents big opportunities for printing technology. MCAM are already in discussions to pursue projects in this area.

Amaero and Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing

www.amaero.com.au

Amaero Engineering Pty Ltd was developed by MCAM as a spin-off company in March 2013, functioning as the commercial arm. Amaero are well-positioned, with a foot in both commercial production and research.

https://platforms.monash.edu/mcam

MCAM’s work on printing the jet engine has progressed from using the original ‘instructions’ for the engine to assessing the engine section by section, determining which parts are most cost-effective if 3D printed, and which are still best built the traditional way. During this process they have also been investigating what parts of the engine can be lightened, while still ensuring any prototype meets all safety certifications.

They are currently working with a number of companies, mainly preparing prototypes of components that they’re interested in developing further, and doing feasibility studies for them as to whether this method of manufacture is going to make sense for scale-up.

They have been commissioned to make hundreds of prototype fuel injectors, which are being test-fired by Safran. Other Tier One aerospace companies are commissioning Amaero, including Raytheon and Boeing.

The Centre uses two methods of additive manufacturing: powder-bed selective laser sintering (commonly referred to as 3D printing) and blown-powder laser-melting. They work from computer-aided design (CAD) files, using the printing machines to go directly to a product.

Powder Bed 3D Printing

The Centre has a Concept Laser XLine (the largest powder bed selective laser melting (SLM) machine available) and two EOS INT 280M powder bed SLM machines. Parts of up to 650mm x 400mm x 500mm deep can be produced.

The parts can have complex shapes, and include honeycombed internal structures to reduce weight and cost.

The powder-bed method involves metal powder spread in a very thin layer (50 microns, in the ball-park of the width of a human hair) across a base plate, where a laser fuses the metal in an outline determined by the computer-aided design (CAD). The baseplate then drops by 50 microns and the process is repeated to build up the structure – adding, rather than removing components as in some other manufacturing. There is a small amount of spatter (powder that is melted but hasn’t attached properly onto the product). This is caught & sieved to be recycled, so there is a very small amount of wastage.

Blown powder printing

The Centre also has a Trumpf 7040 Laser Cell Blown Powder facility that can house parts up to 4000 x 1500 x 750mm.

This second method is more flexible in terms of the possibilities for shapes, and its potential to add to or repair existing structures such as damaged turbine blades. The metal powder is melted when blown into the laser, being deposited beneath while the mounted laser head moves around in a spiral.

They can produce parts with short lead times (in weeks rather than months) using:

  • Nickel-based alloy (Hastelloy X) for high temperature applications, such as the hot parts of gas turbine engines, heat exchangers, combined cycle power plants
  • High alloy stainless steel for high strength, highly corrosion resistant applications in oil and gas and chemical processing plants
  • 18% Ni Maraging 300 harden-able steel for injection moulding tooling and very high strength airframe parts

And on longer time-frames:

  • Lightweight, high strength aluminium and titanium alloys for aerospace structures and marine uses; medical devices and prosthetics.

Safran and Microturbo

www.safran-group.com

Founded in 2005, Safran is a multinational company based in Toulouse, France. It has almost 30 years of experience as a major partner for Tier One Supplier companies.

Safran provides system engineering design and technical analysis services to a variety of transport industries globally. It is part of Labinal Power Systems.

Part of the Safran group, Microturbo are based in France, and are recognised as world-leaders in propulsion systems. They are a company specialising in the design, development and manufacture of high-tech gas turbines. Microturbo are collaborating with the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre on the Additive Manufacturing project.

The people

Professor Xinhua Wu, Director of the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals brings extensive expertise to the work. Her history includes collaboration with Rolls-Royce, the European Space Agency, Airbus and Bombardier. And she has big plans for Australia’s aerospace industry.

“A lot of global companies are slow to consider Australia due to its remoteness from the major manufacturing centres, but there is a lot of impressive research being conducted by exceptional researchers,” Wu says.

Qualifications:

  • Professor, Materials Engineering & Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals and Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing
  • 1995 PhD University of Birmingham, 1986 MSc Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1983 BSc South-Central University China

Wu moved from the UK to head ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals (comprising 100 researchers from six universities), and also initiated the Monash Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (MCAM).

According to Monash Magazine, she is so influential that European companies including Safran, the European Space Agency and Airbus followed her.

Wu’s research interest is in the development of aerospace materials, in particular Ti alloys, and their manufacturing processes.

Her key activities include: developing new alloys for specific applications; modifying existing alloys or processing conditions to maximise their performance, characterising microstructure and mechanical properties of Ti alloys in a range of sizes and developing new manufacturing processes to reduce manufacturing costs, whilst meeting mechanical property requirements for individual service conditions.

Ben Batagol

Ben Batagol is the Business Development Manager at Amaero. He has previously worked with Intech Strategies, Flight Data Systems and Intercorp.

Additional links:

An article in The Age on the importance of additive manufacturing in Australia:
www.theage.com.au/it-pro/business-it/3d-printing-funds-needed-to-revive-manufacturing-in-australia-20140730-zynab.html

Publication by Deloitte University Press for more on the suggested benefits to aerospace: http://dupress.com/articles/additive-manufacturing-3d-opportunity-in-aerospace/