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.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.