Pratt & Whitney has revealed its first industrialised use of 3D-printing for aero-engine component, a first in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of commercial engines.

The 3D-printed part is projected to enter the repair process by mid-2020 at Pratt & Whitney’s repair specialist in Singapore, Component Aerospace Singapore.

The new approach was the result of an integrative effort between Pratt & Whitney’s engineering experts, its repair specialist Component Aerospace Singapore, in collaboration with the Land Systems arm of ST Engineering, to deliver faster and flexible repair solutions to support Pratt & Whitney engines.

Fuel system component will reduce dependency on material supply

The 3D-printed aero-engine component draws on ST Engineering’s production capabilities and strong domain knowledge in metal printing via a controlled process operationalised by Pratt & Whitney. The part will first be used in a fuel system component on one of Pratt & Whitney’s engine models. The alternative material solution offers the added advantages of reducing dependency on current material supply from conventional fabrication processes such as forging and casting.

Brendon McWilliam, executive director, Aftermarket Operations, Asia Pacific said: Thanks to the out-of-the-box thinking by our employees at Component Aerospace Singapore, we are now another step closer to scaling the technology to meet our growing aftermarket operations, and industrialising 3D printing for the industry. This groundbreaking innovation is part of the wider technology roadmap by Pratt & Whitney to introduce advanced technologies that integrate artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and automation across our operations as part of our digital transformation.”

3D printing set to transform MRO sector

The premise of additive manufacturing or 3D printing is built on the ability to produce parts on demand to complex specifications. This adaptability in design and scalability to real-time quantity needs is provided by additive manufacturing and is set to transform the MRO sector.

Chin-Huat Sia, principal engineer at Component Aerospace Singapore added: 3D printing will be a game-changer for the MRO industry worldwide, especially in servicing even more commercial engines. This technology enables greater flexibility in our inventory management. Following this trailblazing initiative, both Pratt & Whitney and ST Engineering will examine how additive manufacturing can be applied for other aviation components and other engine types, and further developed to enable hybrid repairs and realise the full potential of 3D printing for commercial aftermarket operations.”

Pratt & Whitney’s engineering team extended ST Engineering’s application of 3D-printing methods for ground transport systems to produce the aero-engine component for the Pratt & Whitney engine. Both organisations worked closely to ensure in-house quality and process systems are certified to Pratt & Whitney’s requirements for aftermarket applications.