Last year GE Additive and GE Aviation proposed a collaborative metal additive manufacturing program with the U.S. Air Force to increase the adoption of 3D printing for spare parts intended to improve military readiness. The collaboration hit its first milestone with the 3D printing of a sump cover for the F110 jet engine which is used on both the F-15 and F-16 aircraft.
Colonel Benjamin Boehm, Director of the AFLCMC/LP Propulsion Directorate, explains: “The collaborative effort between the US Air Force and GE shows great promise toward the adoption of metal 3D printed parts as an option to solve the US Air Force’s current and future sustainment challenges. This capability provides an alternate method to source parts for legacy propulsion systems throughout their life cycle, especially when faced with a diminishing supplier base or when infrequent demands or low volume orders are not attractive to traditional manufacturers.”
The Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) is responsible for ensuring mission readiness by applying novel and relevant technologies that benefit the operation and sustainment of the Force. More and more of the aircraft are entering their sixth decade of service and finding spare parts for them has become increasingly difficult or costly. With the addition of Additive Manufacturing the Air Force can print the spare parts and have them qualified for the extremely rigorous regulatory requirements of aviation.
Lisa Coroa-Bockley, general manager for advanced materials solutions at GE Aviation, added: “Speed is additive’s currency, and by applying our additive experiences with the LEAP fuel nozzle and other parts additively printed for the GE9X, being able to offer an end-to-end solution and also applying lessons learned of a robust certification processes, we’ve been able to accelerate the pace for the USAF.”
Currently they are starting off small with simple parts but with each phase will increase the complexity of the parts and eventually whole families of parts will be printed such as common core heat exchangers. Their fist task is a F110’s sump cover .
James Bonar, engineering manager at GE Additive, explains: “Compared to other parts on the F110 engine, the sump cover might have lower functionality, but is incredibly important. It needs to be durable, form a seal and it needs to work for the entire engine to function – which is of course critical on a single engine aircraft like the F-16.”
The sump cover was printed in cobalt-chrome and according to the Air Force the project is ahead of schedule, the next project will be a sump cover housing on the 40+ year old TF34 engine.
Essop, Anas, et al. “U.S. Air Force and GE Collaborate to 3D Print Sump Cover for F110 Jet Engine.” 3D Printing Industry, 18 May 2020, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/u-s-air-force-and-ge-collaborate-to-3d-print-sump-cover-for-f110-jet-engine-171763/.