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GE Turns to 3D Printers for Plane Parts

The company is leading a push toward assembly-line printing
The GE90 is one of the world’s most powerful jet engines. GE plans to produce 100,000 3D-printed components for the next-generation GE9X and Leap models
The GE90 is one of the world’s most powerful jet engines. GE plans to produce 100,000 3D-printed components for the next-generation GE9X and Leap modelsCourtesy of GE Aviation

General Electric, on the hunt for ways to build more than 85,000 fuel nozzles for its new Leap jet engines, is making a big investment in 3D printing. Usually the nozzles are assembled from 20 different parts. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing can create the units in one metal piece, through a successive layering of materials. The process is more efficient and can be used to create designs that can’t be made using traditional techniques, GE says. The finished product is stronger and lighter than those made on the assembly line and can withstand the extreme temperatures (up to 2,400F) inside an engine. There’s just one problem: Today’s industrial 3D printers don’t have enough capacity to handle GE’s production needs, which require faster, higher-quality output at a lower cost.

Each Leap engine will contain 19 metal 3D-printed fuel nozzles. The part is lighter and more durable than traditional parts
Courtesy GE Aviation