Additive manufacturing techniques are rapidly spreading from one industry sector to the next. In the field of engine construction, MTU reached a crucial milestone: As one of the first engine makers worldwide the company is applying additive processes to manufacture production parts. At its Munich location, MTU uses selective laser melting (SLM) to produce borescope bosses for Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower® PW1100G-JM engine powering the A320neo.
The first step in selective laser melting is to use a computer to slice up a 3D CAD model of the component to be produced. A laser then builds up the solid equivalent of the model layer by layer on a building platform using powdered material. The powder particles are locally melted and fused together. The advantages: The process allows complex components that are extremely difficult, if not impossible to manufacture using conventional methods to be produced with only small amounts of material and few tools. The technology opens the door to entirely new designs, appreciably cuts development, production and lead times, and brings down production costs. Additive manufacturing is particularly suitable for producing parts in materials that are difficult to machine, such as nickel alloys. Thanks to its flexibility, it is the method for low-volume production and for one-off components.
MTU is pressing on with additive manufacturing in technology projects and technology programs, giving its development top priority. The aim is to explore new designs, new components – conceivably airfoils for compressors and turbines, as well as structural components – and new materials. As part of Clean Sky, the most ambitious technology initiative ever launched in Europe, MTU is currently manufacturing a seal carrier using additive processes. The inner ring with integral honeycombs will be installed in the high-pressure compressor to reduce weight, lighter-weight designs being one of the key objectives in engine and aircraft construction.