Australian researchers have created the world’s first 3D-printed jet engine in a manufacturing breakthrough that engineers expect will lead to cheaper, lighter and more fuel-efficient jets.
The partnership between Monash University and spin-out company Amaero Engineering has captured the attention of Airbus, Boeing and defence contractor Raytheon.
The breakthrough opens the door for engineers to make and test parts in days instead of months.
“[In the past you had to] melt, mould, carve and turn to get the final product,” said Professor Ian Smith, Monash University’s vice-provost for research.
“This way we can very quickly get a final product, so the advantages of this technology are, firstly, for rapid prototyping and making a large number of prototypes quickly.
“Secondly, for being able to make bespoke parts that you wouldn’t be able to with classic engineering technologies.”
Professor Smith said he believed Monash was well placed to take advantage of the technology because the university made the materials as well as printing the parts.
“We’re the only centre [in the world] that’s developed the materials that go into the printers, so we can make stuff of sufficient quality,” he said.
“That’s why the French aerospace industry and large companies like Safran, Microturbo and Airbus are wanting to work with Monash and work with Australian companies.”
It all began two years ago with a challenge from French aerospace company Safran.
The company gave the Monash researchers one of their old engines and asked them to make a copy.
The engineers passed with flying colours and are now making top-secret prototype parts for Safran, Boeing and Airbus.
Professor Smith said the capabilities of the technology were only “scratching the tip of the iceberg”.
“We’ve talked about how it can be useful in the aerospace industry, but we see enormous applications in the biomedical industry,” he said.
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