GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from CMCs, capping a 30-year quest. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine. (Source: GE Aviation)
bobjengr, how interesting to know that you've worked at GE. Thanks for the history and perspective.
I grew up associating the company with solid, mid-market appliances (and continue to buy them although now they're apparently considered low end). But the more I learn about its innovative R&D, the more impressed I am at what they've been doing with their deep pockets. For their jet engines, they're working on three different bleeding-edge technologies and helping to make them all happen at industrial strength in high volumes: carbon composite, CMCs, and 3D printing.
Very interesting post Ann. I retired from GE in 2005 and there was some indication at that time "aircraft engines" was working steadily on composite structures. As you mentioned in your article, it's an evolution and not a revolution. One of the great problems with "jet engines" is heat—the great enemy. While in the Air Force, I was able to see the SR-71 and work around that "beast". After every few flights, the turbine blades would need replacing due to the heat generated during flight. Again, great post.
Like we said in the article, GE has been investing R&D funds and working on this process for over 30 years. So has Rolls-Royce, another company with deep pockets. So it's evolution rather than revolution and the tipping point finally got reached. It's easy to find general info on CMCs by googling the term. Here's a good background article in a vertical publication: http://www.compositesworld.com/articles/ceramic-matrix-composites-heat-up
TJ, there are several different methods for making these, just as there are in other types of composites that embed fibers in a matrix. GE embeds silicon carbide ceramic fibers in a ceramic resin matrix, which is then coated with a proprietary material. It's processed in an autoclave oven and there's some post-processing including burnout, but they aren't giving out a lot of details on exactly what else is involved, nor is CFM. Here's a promotional video that tells us a little: start at 1 minute 45 seconds in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=666VH25FeG0
I agree, Ann, this really is good to see. With the composite's ability to withstand high temperatures and other durability factors, and its light weight, I would imagine the applications are endless once it really gets going.
Sometimes it's fun to invite a pun disaster in a headline. The article was terrific, and it's good to see composites take center stage in delivering on their promise of lightweight strength and durability.
My husband probably should have been a philosophy professor; he certainly thinks like one. Many intelligent people I know think puns are a high art form, but I beg to disagree. Like you, I think that honor goes to irony, and also to sarcasm. I knew better, but it made the headline short and succinct.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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