(Image source: GE Aviation)

GE Aviation and DM3D to ramp up 3D-printed fan blade production for GE9X engine

Using direct metal deposition, DM3D can create near-net shape fan blades and more closely monitor the height and temperature of the melt pool while manufacturing them. GE Aviation is working with DM3D to develop this process for full scale GE9X production in 2020.
GE Aviation’s next-gen GE9X high-bypass turbofan engine is poised to be the most fuel-efficient jet engine ever produced by the company. Designed to power Boeing’s new 777X long-range, wide-body airliner, the GE9X builds on GE Aviation’s previous GE90, but will incorporate a larger fan, higher bypass and compression ratios, and components made from advanced manufacturing processes, such as fan blades produced using direct metal deposition (DMD).

GE Aviation, the Evendale, Ohio-based subsidiary of General Electric has been working with DM3D Technology, LLC. of Auburn Hills, Michigan and Windsor, Connecticut-based Barnes Aerospace to develop DM3D’s proprietary DMD technology for a ramp-up to full-scale production of 3D-printed GE9X fan blades in 2020.

Read more: S.S. White Technologies lending flexibility to new GE9X, 777X

In DMD – a type of 3D-printing technology – powder metal is propelled into a laser that fuses the metal to an additively produced component or part. It can be used to manufacture, remanufacture, reconfigure, repair, and restore parts. It can also extend the lives of components by applying corrosion resistant coatings.

Read more from SAE International on manufacturing and propulsion.

The advantages of DMD are that it creates near-net shape and controls heat input, which reduces post processing of the product. DMD also allows for monitoring and control of the height and temperature of the melt pool and even the dilution of substrate material, which may have a very different melting temperature than the deposited material. According to DM3d, this provides a significant advantage over other additive metal manufacturing technologies such as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and electron beam melting (EBM). 

“The complex geometry of these components is an ideal application for the multi-axis deposition capability of DM3D’s additive process,” says Tod Davis, principal engineer for GE Aviation.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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