GE engineers working on the future of aircraft manufacturing recently showed off some of their capabilities with a simple 3D printed mini jet engine that roared at 33,000 rotations per minute.
The backpack-sized jet engine was built by a team of technicians, machinists and engineers who work at a GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center outside Cincinnati, a lab focused on developing additive manufacturing.
The team built the engine over the course of several years to test the technology’s abilities and to work on a side project together. They couldn’t build the complexity of a whole commercial aircraft engine into their working model, so adapted plans for a simpler engine developed for remote control model planes.
In contrast to traditional machining methods that typically cut parts out of larger pieces to get to a finished shape, additive manufacturing uses lasers to fuse thin layers of metal on top of each other to build parts from the ground up. This advanced technique means less material waste and more complex parts that can be built precisely to optimise how they work inside a machine.