GE Aviation 3D prints advanced aerodynamic components for T901 engine
Additive allows for more advanced aerodynamic shapes, leading to better engine performance, reliability and durability for the Army.
GE Aviation successfully completed testing a T901-GE-900 turboshaft engine prototype in support of the United States Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) for Apache and Black Hawk helicopters.
T901 incorporates ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) and additive manufactured components. These innovations will enable the engine to meet or exceed the Army’s aggressive performance targets with field-proven, low-cost technologies.
Like the best-selling LEAP and GE9X engines, the T901 will utilize a significant number of additive parts.
Additive manufacturing allows GE to build complex parts with advanced, 3D shapes at lower weight and with better performance and durability.
For example, the prototype includes an additive part that reduces an assembly of 51 subcomponents into one part.
“With traditional machining and fabrication methods, individual parts are machined into finished parts from castings or forgings and built into assemblies using welding/brazing or bolted joints,” said Ron Hutter, executive director of the T901 program.
“On the T901, additive manufacturing reduces weight by minimizing attaching features in assemblies. Additive also allows for more advanced aerodynamic shapes, leading to better engine performance, reliability and durability for the Army.”
The new engine will incorporate CMC components to improve performance and reduce weight. More durable and capable of withstanding higher temperatures than metal alloys, CMCs allow less cooling air to be used to cool parts in the engine’s hot section, thus improving engine efficiency.
Since 2010, GE spent more than $300 million to develop and test T901-specific technologies ahead of an upcoming preliminary design review (PDR) scheduled with the United States Army Contracting Command (ACC).
In 2016, the Army awarded GE Aviation a $102-million, 24-month contract culminating in the T901 PDR, after which the Army plans to select a single supplier to complete the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase of ITEP.
“To validate our analytical models ahead of the ITEP PDR with the Army, it was critical to demonstrate that a T901 prototype engine outfitted with the latest and greatest commercial and military technologies will meet ITEP performance requirements,” explains Hutter.
Beyond the advanced design and hardware, the engine prototype features the latest diagnostic and prognostic tools with a modular architecture that provides the Army with the flexibility to improve readiness at the lowest life cycle costs.