As TIME magazine’s technology reporter Victor Luckerson compiled candidates for the early January edition highlighting “innovators in science and technology who will help shape the world” in 2016, he remembered the exotic manufacturing underway at GE Aviation.
“I first learned about GE (Aviation) using additive technology when I was researching for TIME’s Best Inventions of 2014,” said Luckerson. For that edition, he cited GE using additive manufacturing for jet engines.
Luckerson and the TIME editorial team whittled their long list of innovators for 2016 down to four companies in four technology areas. GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center in Cincinnati was selected as the innovator in the arena of manufacturing, joining three other innovators in the fields of space exploration, cybersecurity, and technology diversity.
“Having an item related to manufacturing made sense as that’s a very important U.S. industry,” Luckerson said. “The fact that GE is using 3D printing in a way that has real-world implications for anyone who flies on these jets made it appealing to us.”
TIME magazine noted that GE Aviation is producing the interior of its fuel nozzles for the new CFM LEAP engine by using additive manufacturing. It results in reduced component weight and better fuel efficiency while providing for a more durable part.
With additive manufacturing, the LEAP fuel nozzle interior can be made as one part in a laser machine. The same part produced conventionally would require brazing and welding together about 20 different parts.
When you think of innovations that are changing our world, you tend to immediately think of Silicon Valley,” Luckerson said. “This GE innovation is happening in the heart of the United States, in Ohio.”
Additive manufacturing is a fast-developing technology around the globe, and GE Aviation has taken a leadership position in advancing this technology for jet propulsion. With the LEAP fuel nozzle, GE Aviation is using the technology to produce a highly sophisticated part in the engine’s hot section. Also, GE must produce the nozzles at extremely high volume as the demand for the LEAP engine, developed by CFM International, the 50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma (Safran), is extraordinary. Almost 10,000 LEAP engines – with up to 19 fuel nozzles per engine – are on order to power three single-aisle aircraft models: the Airbus A320neo, the Boeing 737 MAX, and the COMAC C919
By 2020, GE Aviation expects to produce up to 100,000 engine components using additive manufacturing at its production site in Auburn, Alabama. GE is also using additive technology to produce a special sensor that is being retrofitted into earlier-model GE90-94B engines for the Boeing 777.
In addition to Cincinnati and Auburn, GE Aviation is also heavily engaged in additive manufacturing at several sites across its manufacturing network, including Dayton, Ohio; and at Avio Aero in Italy.
Greg Morris of GE Aviation’s additive development center noted that the TIME magazine inclusion is a “tremendous recognition of the broad and deep talent that exists at all of GE Aviation’s additive sites across the world. Additive technologies are the epitome of advanced manufacturing married with the digital world enabling designs and functionality that previously were not achievable. TIME’s inclusion of GE as a 2016 innovator is a testament to the talent and passion of all those involved with additive at GE Aviation.”
Learn more about GE Aviation’s Additive Manufacturing technology.