Yesterday, we posted a tech memoir by Steven Ashley about the slow rise of 3D printing — from sci-fi fantasy, to toy, to creator of real tools. Towards the end of the piece, Ashley mentions how GE is starting manufacture aircraft engine parts using 3D printers. Here's the excerpt:
Rows of industrial 3D-printing units in plants will soon be fabricating turbine engine parts—fuel nozzles—from cobalt-chromium alloy powders. Each one of GE’s new LEAP jet engine will contain nineteen of the fuel nozzles, which are up to 25 percent lighter and five-times more durable than traditionally manufactured fuel nozzles. In airplanes cutting weight saves fuel. The LEAP engine has already amassed more than 4,500 orders, so between it and the new GE9X engine, the corporation could end up making as many as 100,000 additive manufactured components by 2020.
In the picture above, you can see one of those fuel nozzles, in all its 3D-printed glory.
It's also worth noting, Ashley says, that 3D printing your airplane parts can allow you to design pieces that cut out unnecessary weight in ways that other manufacturing processes can't. In this next photo, you'll see two versions of the same bracket — the one on the left was 3D printed. It's full of holes and has rounded, rather than square, corners, both of which represent the reduction of unneeded material that you couldn't easily do away with in any other way.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.