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Engineering Materials
Ceramic Matrix Composites LEAP to High Volumes
11/21/2013

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)
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)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: CERAMIC MATRIX COMPOSITES
Ann R. Thryft   11/25/2013 5:38:52 PM
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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.

bobjengr
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CERAMIC MATRIX COMPOSITES
bobjengr   11/25/2013 5:32:57 PM
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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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: How formed?
Ann R. Thryft   11/22/2013 11:44:55 AM
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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

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: How formed?
Ann R. Thryft   11/22/2013 11:43:16 AM
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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

RogueMoon
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Re: How formed?
RogueMoon   11/22/2013 9:43:24 AM
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I'm with TJ on this one.  How are these materials made?

CMC's have been talked about for decades.  What has changed to cause GE to pony up the funds to go mass production on these?  Something must have gotten radically cheaper.

TJ McDermott
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How formed?
TJ McDermott   11/22/2013 2:15:23 AM
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Ann, do you know how the parts are formed?  Are they milled?  Molded?  Cast?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A big leap forward
Rob Spiegel   11/22/2013 12:39:12 AM
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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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: A big leap forward
Ann R. Thryft   11/21/2013 5:49:59 PM
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GE has really been out there at the head of the pack in developing this material for some very tough environments. I'm glad to see it finally getting into high-volume production.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: A big leap forward
Rob Spiegel   11/21/2013 1:32:23 PM
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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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: A big leap forward
Ann R. Thryft   11/21/2013 1:03:42 PM
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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.

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