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Rolls-Royce considers 3D printing jet engine parts

Nov. 18, 2013, London, U.K. - Rolls-Royce is looking to implement 3D printing technology in the production of aircraft engine parts, a move which will expedite production, while producing lightweight components.


November 18, 2013
By aerospace-technology.com

Rolls-Royce technology strategy head Henner Wapenhans said that the company is only a few years away from using 3D technology to make components that go into service.

Wapenhans said: "Through the 3D printing process, you're not constrained; having to get a tool in to create a shape. You can create any shape you like."

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, could help reduce the weight of components such as brackets.

"There are studies that show one can create better lightweight structures because you just take the analogy of what nature does and how bones are built up, they're not solid material," Wapenhans said.

The use of additive manufacturing technology could help Rolls-Royce cut lead times while securing a storage advantage, with less need to store components.

Rolls-Royce is not the first company to announce the use of 3D printing for producing jet engines parts. General Electric (GE) recently unveiled its plans to expand the use of the technology by including production of fuel nozzles for aircraft engines, following GE Aviation's acquisition of two privately held firms that specialize in 3D printing.

Other aerospace companies developing applications for additive manufacturing include Siemens and BMW.

Wapenhans said : "It takes potentially 18 months to get the first part after placing an order, versus printing it, which could be done quite rapidly."