It was several years ago when GE first considered using 3D printing to make turbine blades and other components, like fuel nozzles, for its GE9X engine, the largest engine on any commercial plane and the driving force behind the next-generation Boeing 777X aircraft. Last year, GE Aviation purchased 17 Arcam EBM A2X machines and 10 Arcam Spectra H systems, which were then sent to facilities around the US and Europe to print lightweight titanium aluminide (TiAl) blades on the low-pressure turbine for the GE9X engine. Finally, history was made when the maiden flight of the Boeing 777X, and its twin GE9X engines, took place almost a year ago.
Bill Fitzgerald, vice president and general manager of Commercial Engines Operation for GE Aviation, said, “Just as the GE90 pioneered new technology for commercial aircraft engines more than 25 years ago on the Boeing 777, the GE9X sets the new standard for engine performance and efficiency thanks to the incorporation of GE’s most advanced technologies developed over the last decade.”
Featuring carbon fiber folding wing tips, the GE9X has been called the world’s largest twin-engine jet, and because of a 10 percent decrease in fuel use and emissions (thanks to a new design and the GE9X with its 3D printed parts), it’s been named the most fuel-efficient one, as well. Advanced fiber composites made it possible to reduce the number of 3D printed turbine blades in the GE9X from 22 to 16, and the engine’s 3D printed fuel nozzle went from 20 parts to only one. It’s definitely a success story for the additive manufacturing industry.
Now there’s even more good news: GE Aviation announced that the GE9X engine has reached an important milestone by achieving certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“This milestone has been accomplished thanks to the tremendous efforts of the GE9X team and our partners. The GE9X engine has been through a rigorous and thorough certification and testing process. We are pleased with the performance of the engine, which has been validated through extensive ground and flight testing. We are excited to deliver a mature, state-of-the-art product to operators around the world,” stated GE9X program general manager Karl Sheldon.
The GE9X engine operates with less smog-causing emissions, and is designed to achieve 5% better specific fuel consumption (SFC), than any of the other engines in its class, and also has 10% lower SFC in comparison to the GE90-115B engine. To achieve FAA certification, the GE9X test engines completed about 5,000 hours and 8,000 cycles, and the FAR (Federal Aviation Regulation) Part 33 certification involved nine test engines. By being awarded FAA certification for the GE9X, GE Aviation has capped off the renewal of its commercial jet engines—including the CFM LEAP engine and the GEnx for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—with a flourish.
“It takes the world’s best talent in jet propulsion to create a game-changing product like the GE9X engine. There is no substitute that can achieve the combination of size, power and fuel efficiency of the GE9X. This engine will deliver unsurpassed value and reliability to our airline customers,” said GE Aviation’s President and CEO John Slattery. “I want to congratulate the entire GE9X team and thank Boeing, our partners and suppliers for the collaboration on this incredible achievement.”
Orders and commitments for more than 600 GE9X engines have already been received. At the moment, GE Aviation is conducting 3,000 cycles of extra ground testing on the GE9X engine in order to support Extended Operations (ETOPS) approval, in addition to maturation testing so that the company’s engineers are prepared to provide service and support to the engine. GE has also set up engine training courses at its Cincinnati-based Customer Technical Education Center (CTEC) facility, which is currently using a GE9X engine to create lean maintenance practices for GE training procedures and modules. To supplement the in-person training for course work covering fan stator installation and removal, line maintenance, and more, the CTEC team is developing AR/VR training courses as well.
GE remains committed to continuing its work with Boeing to finish its 777X flight test program and entry into service, and eight GE9X test engines and two spares have already been created and sent to Seattle to be used on four 777X test airplanes. GE Aviation is working to finish factory acceptance tests, and has already assembled several GE9X production engines.
Additional participants in the GE9X engine program are Safran Aero Booster, Safran Aircraft Engines, IHI Corporation, and MTU Aero Engines AG.
(Source/Images: GE Aviation)
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