3D Printing? Yeah, so what. I’ve seen lots of 3D printers. They’re inaccurate as heck, they only produce plastic, and it takes more sanding and bondo than my mother-in-law’s crashed Vista Cruiser station wagon to get a part to look halfway decent. I’m a real machinist. I don’t need no stinkin’ 3D Printing, I’ve got CNC mills and lathes.
Not so fast, buddy. What if you had a 3D printer capable of making metal parts, even parts out of tough solid-green unobtanium metals like Inconel? What if the metal parts came out in high resolution, and only precision bearing surfaces needed a quick clean up pass in a “real” machine tool? That’d be pretty nifty, right? You’re darned tootin’.
Well eat your hearts out, because GE used just such a 3D printer to make this miniature turbo jet engine they call the “Angel’s Trumpet:”
GE 3D Printed a Miniature Jet Engine…
Now don’t get me wrong–I love my Day Job running CNCCookbook. I get to write these articles, work on cool CNC Software, and do all manner of other fun things. But so far I haven’t gotten to do anything quite so cool as 3D printing a miniature working jet engine.
The 3D Printing technology used to make the engine is called DMLM, or “Direct Metal Laser Melting.” It involves using a layer to melt together powdered metal into layers. The machines used to make the parts are EOS M270’s. We discuss the machines at more length in the 3D Printing installment of our fantasy Tony Stark’s Workshop series. Fun stuff, but very expensive–between $500K and $1 million.
Here’s a video with a lot more information on the Angel’s Trumpet project:
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Bob is responsible for the development and implementation of the popular G-Wizard CNC Software. Bob is also the founder of CNCCookbook, the largest CNC-related blog on the Internet.
This is all well and good but the metal structure is not going to be as strong as traditional methods.
Run that thing HOT for 2 hours. Then after having done that 20 times lets take a look at it, if it survives.
Form does not indicate integrity. There is a reason why drag cars still sue cast iron blocks because it can take a beating and aluminium just explodes with 5000 horsepower.
Also that is a tiny engine. Make it 500mm wide and all of a sudden the forces involves are 1000 times more. This is still a toy making machine or a non-structural part maker. I know koenigsegg use metal printing for their turbo casings but I am pretty sure the don’t use it for the turbine itself.