Booming demand for aircraft and power generation plants is fueling higher requirements for a specialized investment casting process that creates complex hollow internal shapes. Use of molded ceramic cores allows turbine engine blades and vanes to be cast to size with complex cooling passages, permitting engines to operate at higher temperatures with greater efficiency. GE Aviation has a record number of engines on order through 2012, its third record year in a row. The cores are also used for turbines in natural gas power generation plants.
One of the beneficiaries is a company called Certech, which is the largest independent producer of ceramic cores for investment casting. Technology growth is in materials development. “We’re always looking for a better mousetrap to give a better yield to the customer,” says Michael Kasberg, vice president and general manager of Certech. “When they pour metal around our parts sometimes they want to pour hotter metal. As a result you need a ceramic that won’t melt when it sees a higher temperature. “
Optomec's third America Makes project for metal 3D printing teams the LENS process company with GE Aviation, Lockheed, and other big aerospace names to develop guidelines for repairing high-value flight-critical Air Force components.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
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