Xinhua Wu is a professor of materials engineering and also the director of Monash University’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing in Melbourne, Australia. Well, she deserves an elaborate introduction as she has come out with a project where she made a jet engine on a 3D printer. Undoubtedly, 3D printing is the new phenomenon in the market but building a jet engine on 3D printer is really unique and tedious. Further, the technology of jet engine is not a piece of cake and it doesn’t easily fit to power a plane. It requires a maintained level of precision and reliability. If you want under the wings of today’s flying machine then it will take about two years of manufacturing time or half a decade for the designing and research to proceeds it.
Wu has already so much of experience in this field as she had already printed a variety of components for many aerospace companies. She had her hand in 3D printed parts for GE, Boeing, and other companies. For this jet product, the cutting-edge products used in other 3D printing could not be used to flaunt the capabilities of new additive technology. So, she set out to rebuild a 40-year-old engine provided by Microturbo. She opted for old design over new design as in the new design there are confidentiality issue.
In any 3D printing project, collection of electronics to be used is the first step and one of the toughest also. In order to print the engine, the team went through piles of 2D drawing, of which many were not even represented in the drawings. It was followed by the scanning of the engine’s parts. The material of each component was also determined to reproduce it with precision. Although they tried their best to optimize the printing process in less time and with little supporting material but one particular challenge were the 100-micron holes. They are not a trivial size in the world of 3D printing. It took them a year to print two complete engines.
In the theory of jet engine, the engine has to be ready to fire and even includes supplying power to a plane. They are not allowed to run off a few spare parts as per the agreement and even cut the weight of certain components before firing it up. The team was looking for some modification as duplication will be so mainstream. In the next level Boeing has asked Wu and her team to design a material and process which is more appropriate for 3D printing. In fact several machining companies have approached her hoping she’ll pass down her knowledge.
This is a sort of revolution she has brought in the field of technology and way forward, she is looking to demonstrate the abilities of 3D printing. This approach is likely to change how things might be printed in the future.
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