GE Additive and GE Aviation announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given ‘change in design’ approval to replace a conventionally manufactured power door opening system (PDOS) bracket, used on GE Aviation’s GEnx-2B commercial airline engines that power the Boeing 747-8, with an additively manufactured bracket.
The PDOS is used on the ground to open and close the fan cowl doors to enable access to the fan compartment for maintenance reasons. The GEnx engine represents a giant leap forward in propulsion technology, using the latest materials and design processes to reduce weight, improve performance and utilization, and deliver a more fuel-efficient commercial aircraft engine. In addition, the engine is the fastest-selling, high-thrust jet engine in GE Aviation history with more than 1,600 engines on order. The GEnx-2B engine powers the four-engine Boeing 747-8.
The additively manufactured brackets will enter mass production at GE Aviation’s facility in Auburn, Alabama, using GE Additive Concept Laser M2 cusing Multilaser machines this month. GE Aviation anticipates the first GEnx engines installed with the new brackets will be shipped in January 2019.
The original PDOS brackets on the GEnx-2B engines were produced from a solid block of metal, using conventional methods such as milling. This technique meant that about a 50% of the material was wasted. But with direct metal laser melting (DMLM) additive technology, material waste has been reduced by as much as 90%.
GE Aviation has also improved the design to reduce the bracket’s weight by 10%.
The decision to mass produce using a cobalt-chrome alloy over a traditional nickel-based superalloy means a faster build. To make this approach as efficient as possible, four brackets will be printed at the same time.
Using a custom interlocking design to house all four brackets on a single build plate, the Concept Laser M2 cusing machine’s pair of lasers can print an aircraft’s worth of brackets in one build, before post-processing and inspection.
Finally, by taking production of the brackets entirely in-house, GE Aviation will also reduce its production costs.
“We chose this project because it represented several firsts for us. It’s the first program we certified on a Concept Laser machine. It’s also the first project we took from design to production in less than ten months,” said Eric Gatlin, general manager, additive integrated product team, GE Aviation.
“To ensure the M2 cusing machines were certified to meet the strict requirements for the aerospace industry, collaboration on this program has been closer than usual with our colleagues at GE Additive. As we continue thinking about the many parts we can design, redesign and manufacture on GE Additive machines, I’m looking forward to putting both our teams and the technology through their paces,” Gatlin added.