3D-printed jet engine unveiled by Australian researchers
Technique could lead to cheaper, lighter, more fuel-efficient jets
Australian researchers have unveiled the world's first 3D-printed jet engine, a manufacturing breakthrough that could lead to cheaper, lighter and more fuel-efficient jets.
Engineers at Monash University and its commercial arm Amaero Engineering are making top-secret prototypes for Boeing Co, Airbus Group NV, Raytheon Co and Safran SA in a development that could be the saviour of Australia's struggling manufacturing sector.
Robert Hobbs, outgoing CEO of Amaero, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this week that 3D printing can cut production times for components from three months to just six days.
"The turn around time associated with trying out, particularly trying out a new part is very long, can be months. Where as we can scan this, print it off in a matter of days and so the big advantage is that we can speed up the turn around time on the jet engine dramatically," he said.
Simon Marriott, the incoming CEO of Amaero, the private company set up by Monash to commercialize the product, told Reuters that they plan to have printed engine components in flight tests within the next 12 months and certified for commercial use within the next two to three years.
Only 3 3D printers of this kind in world
Australia has the potential to corner the market. It has one of only three of the necessary large format 3D metal printers in the world — France and Germany have the other two — and is the only place that makes the materials for use in the machine.
It is also the world leader in terms of intellectual property (IP) regarding 3D printing for manufacturing.
3D printing makes products by layering material until a three-dimensional object is created. Automotive and aerospace companies use it for producing prototypes as well as creating specialized tools, mouldings and some end-use parts.
Marriott declined to comment in detail on Amaero's contracts with companies including Boeing and Airbus, citing commercial confidentiality. But those contracts are expected to pay in part for the building of further large format printers, at a cost of around A$3.5 million ($3.4 million Cdn) each, to ramp up production of jet engine components.