Siemens has become the first company to successfully test 3D printed gas turbine blades, a breakthrough in the additive manufacturing method.
According to the report by Siemens, the tests were conducted at the Siemens Test Center for Industrial Gas Turbines in Lincoln, England. Siemens bought a British additive manufacturing company, ‘Materials Solutions,’ in August 2016. The experts from Materials Solutions worked with Siemens engineers from Lincoln, Berlin, and Finspong, Sweden to optimize the gas turbine blades. The team spent almost 18 months on the international project for development of the entire process chain including the design of individual components. The new 3D printed turbine blades are designed with a revised technique and improved internal cooling geometry.
“This exciting technology is changing the way we manufacture by reducing the lead time for prototype development up to 90 percent,” says Willi Meixner, CEO of Siemens Power and Gas Division.
After the successful testing of the blades, they were installed in an industrial gas turbine SGT-400 having a capacity of 13 MW. The machine could endure a carry load of 11 tons. At full-load conditions, they worked at a speed of 1300 revolutions per minute or 994 mph, at temperatures as high as 1250 degrees Celsius. A gas turbine encounters all these running conditions in real-time.
The material used in the process was high-performing polycrystalline nickel superalloy. Additive manufacturing is the process of making a three-dimensional object through digital design, by adding super-thin layers of material one by one and fusing them together to form an object. The image below from Siemens explains the process of additive manufacturing of the blades.
The competitors of Siemens like the General Electric have invested in buying 3D printing firms. The technology is moving forward at a very fast pace, and the system is reported to have reduced the time between testing and design from two years down to two months.
We do not know when the 3D printed gas turbines will hit the market, but the event looks very near.
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