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Pratt & Whitney uses 3D printing for aero engine parts

08 Apr 2015

Engine-maker is first to use AM to make compressor stators and synch ring brackets for Bombardier production engines.

When engine maker Pratt & Whitney delivers its first PurePower PW1500G engines to aerospace giant Bombardier for its CSeries passenger aircraft, the engines will be the first to feature jet engine parts produced using additive manufacturing (AM).

Some of the new part types constructed by AM are compressor stators and synch ring brackets. Previously, safety concerns prevented Pratt & Whitney from using the technique for production engine components, but recently the parts have undergone rigorous engine testing processes similar to the parts made using traditional manufacturing techniques.

While Pratt & Whitney has produced more than 100,000 prototype parts using additive manufacturing over the past 25 years, the company says it will be the first to use AM technology to produce compressor stators and synch ring brackets for the production engines; PurePower PW1500G engines exclusively power the Bombardier CSeries aircraft family.

Pratt & Whitney has been working with a range of additive manufacturing sysytems suppliers over the past 30 years including Arcam, MarkerBot, EOS, and Objet.

Tom Prete, the company's Engineering vice president, commented, “We are a vertically-integrated additive manufacturing producer with our own metal powder source and the printers necessary to create parts using this innovative technology."

Lynn Gambill, chief engineer, Manufacturing Engineering and Global Services at Pratt & Whitney, commented, "Additive manufacturing offers significant benefits to the production of jet engines. We have engine tested components produced through additive manufacturing in the PW1500G.

“AM offers a number of benefits: It dramatically reduces production time, from design, to prototyping, to finished product and it decreases waste and consumption of raw materials. Furthermore it allows precision production of parts with complex geometry with reduced tooling, and permits multiple parts from an assembly to be made in one integrated piece.”

Savings and efficiencies

Pratt & Whitney adds that In production tests, it has realized up to 15 months lead-time savings compared to conventional manufacturing processes and up to 50% weight reduction in a single part. The PurePower engine family parts will be the first product produced using 3D printing powder bed additive manufacturing.

Related manufacturing technologies that are used in the PurePower engine production include metal injection molding, electron beam melt and laser powder bed fusion including direct metal laser sintering.

Pratt & Whitney and the University of Connecticut are also collaborating to advance additive manufacturing research and development. The Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre is the first of its kind in the US north east region to work with metal powder bed technologies.

With more than $4.5 million invested, the company expects the center will further advance additive manufacturing capabilities, while providing educational opportunities for the next generation of manufacturing engineers.

About Pratt & Whitney

Pratt & Whitney is a leading developer of design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines and auxiliary power units. Parent company United Technologies, Hartford, CT, USA, provides high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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