3D printers have been used to produce a wide range of items, including fidget spinners, prosthetic limbs, and even houses — but a new turboprop engine sets a fresh bar for what can be achieved through additive manufacturing, says GE.
More than a third of the components in GE’s advanced turboprop (ATP) engine, rated at 1,300 shaft horsepower, will be built through additive manufacturing methods, including 3D printing. The engine will power Textron Aviation’s upcoming 10-person business aircraft, the Cessna Denali.
GE took a mock-up of the engine to the EAA AirVenture event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the world’s largest gathering of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, which opened on Monday. It will begin testing it later this year and is planning a test flight in 2018.
“It’s revolutionary,” says Gordie Follin, head of engineering for the ATP program. “The engine is using state-of-the-art technologies that we have validated in our large commercial engines. We are introducing them for the first time in the turboprop market.”
GE hails the ATP as “a treat for engineering and aviation geeks”. It includes 3D aerodynamics, variable stator vanes, and fully integrated digital engine and propeller controls.
“We are enabling Textron to provide a larger and more luxurious cabin with the same range and cruise speed that their customers expect,” Follin says. “At the same time, the pilot will be sitting in a simplified, jet-like cockpit.”