By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Jet Turbine Blades Uploaded by russavia), via Wikimedia Commons
Jet Engine Inlet
The 3D printing process has facilitated the building of a more efficient jet engine.
Last week, the MIT Technology Review reported that a new incarnation of jet engines will mean aircraft use up around 15 per cent less fuel thanks to their lighter components, potentially saving some $1 million (£655,695, €776,217) annually per aeroplane, impacting significantly on carbon emissions.
The new generation of engines is being constructed by the world's largest jet engine maker CFM, a partnership between General Electric and Snecma in France. The first of these engines is called LEAP and will feature technology that has never been used in this application before: ceramic composite materials.
These materials weigh much less than metal alloys and can withstand much higher temperatures.
Furthermore, the engine will utilise parts produced through 3D printing, which LEAP Programme Manager Gareth Richards believes could be used to make more engine parts in the future - leading to further advances in aerospace efficiency.
The 3D-printed parts will also help lower emissions. The system of building these components is a very complex form of additive manufacturing using lasers and metal powers.
This process is allowing CFM to produce a new type of ceramic compound that mixes carbide fibres providing resilience without adding weight or depleting the part's heat-resistant properties.
The new jet engine is compatible with a range of jetliners and even though full-scale production only commenced this month, CFM has already recorded some 4,500 orders.