GE’s LEAP engine with 3D printed parts helps rake in $31 B at Paris Air Show
GE has received orders for 1,658 LEAP and other engines, which can each include up to 19 3D printed fuel nozzles.
There were some spectacular sights at the Paris Air Show last week — from flying motorcycles to anti-drones. However, 3D printing really captured the spotlight. The show was dominated by next-gen passenger jets powered by engines with 3D-printed parts, with GE taking a big piece of the pie.
The aeroengine maker and its partners have announced over $31 billion worth of new business from the show. Majority of the investments comes from orders of the the new family of LEAP jet engines.
The engine was developed by CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, and was designed with 3D printed fuel nozzles.
CFM has received orders for 1,658 LEAP and other engines valued at $27.3 billion. Prior to the show, total orders was estimated at 12,500. However, the company is now boasting more than 14,000 LEAP engine orders.
“This air show has far surpassed all of our expectations,” said CFM President and CEO Gaël Méheust.
CFM developed the LEAP for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and China’s COMAC C919. Aircraft powered by the LEAP engine have already been in service for about a year and a half and carried more than five million passengers.
Each engine has up to 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles. The nozzles help improve engine efficiency by as much as 15 per cent, which is significant considering the decades-long service applications.
The nozzles rely on a complex internal geometry that allows them to mix and inject fuel in the engine efficiently. But the structure is so intricate that 3D printing is the only practical way to mass-produce them.
“We tried to cast it eight times, and we failed every time,” says Mohammad Ehteshami who runs GE Additive, a new GE business dedicated to supplying 3D printers, materials and engineering consulting services.
GE has also worked on a number of different initiatives to make the LEAP engine more efficient and cost-effective, including the integration of “super ceramics” into the LEAP engines.
“This is a huge play for us,” says GE Aviation’s Sanjay Correa, who was involved in the engine’s development.
The 69 Airbus and Boeing planes with LEAP engines currently in service fly on average for more than 10 hours a day, achieving 96 percent utilization, another important airline metric. “An airplane in service is an airplane making money,” says Allen Paxson, the executive vice president of CFM.