Gas Turbine Blades Made Faster With Metals 3D PrintingGas Turbine Blades Made Faster With Metals 3D Printing
Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have achieved a faster production process based on selective laser melting for speeding up the prototyping of big, complex metal parts in gas turbine engines.
July 26, 2016
Lately, much of the news about 3D printing metals is aimed at improving end production: bigger parts, made faster, from new materials. But what about speeding up the prototyping process of large precision metal parts, like gas turbine engine blades and vanes? That's what Germany's Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) have achieved: a faster production process based on selective laser melting (SLM).
The hot path components of gas turbines, like the blades and vanes, are conventionally made of superalloys with a precision casting process. Parts must be tested in real-life situations using gaseous or liquid fuels at very high heat, so prototyping can get very expensive during the multiple iterations that are needed. Each loop of that iterative process can take several months.
Mounted on the turbine engine housing, guide vanes channel hot gas to the movable rotor blades. They consist of an airfoil with the cooling structure and two platforms. These were made of Inconel 718 with a specialized selective laser sintering process that speeds up, and lowers the cost of, prototyping compared to the long iterative cycles required when they are made with casting.
(Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology)
This length of time and high expense has reduced the number of tests for these components that it's possible to complete. But the goal is to optimize the turbine engine's combustion process to make them more efficient. Siemens' Clean Energy Center, a new combustion test center that opened last year near Berlin, is tasked with testing the parts to help develop and refine gas turbine design.
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