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Siemens Proves Proficiency of Printing Powder
Posted on February 8th, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
Think it’s not possible for the operating temperature of a gas turbine to exceed the rupture temperature of the metal it’s made of? Well, Siemens has proven the physics of cooling is not only faster to produce with additive manufacturing, but every bit as reliable.
Engineers apply science to overcome challenges in creating what’s next for society. Sometimes it requires harnessing one discipline against another in reaching a desired goal. Gas turbine engines used in power generation or as propulsion for aircraft are a great example as their operating temperatures can exceed the melting point of most metals. Balancing the physical properties of high strength super alloys such as Inconel or Hastelloy with the heat transfer of pumping air through complex internal cooling systems, engineers found a reliable way to produce turbine blades that withstand temperatures beyond the material capabilities of the base metal. While effective investment casting of turbine blades requires long lead times and expensive, labor intensive manufacturing techniques.
Claiming an industry first, a team of engineers at Siemens test center for industrial gas turbines have re engineered the turbine blade production process using additive manufacturing achieving significant breakthroughs. Not only does the new method improve the efficiency of internal cooling geometries but reduces production lead times from years to a few months. As shown in the image below, internal cooling requires more than simple holes. Complex passages, ribs, and hole patterns maximize heat transfer along with impingement cooling.
Before 3D printing, the traditional approach to manufacturing turbine blades utilized an investment casting process known as “the lost wax process”. After viewing the following video, you’ll begin to appreciate the complexity of not just the casting process itself, but what’s involved to produce parts at an economical scale. 3D printing has the potential to eliminate the expensive tooling and manual operations that go into creating the metal delivery system.
Application of new technology or a new approach such as 3D printing is fruitless unless it can be done reliably and cost effectively. Well-tuned over many years, manufacturing methods such as investment casting produce safe parts. It’s encouraging to see engineering teams such as those at Siemens endurance testing 3D printed parts and sharing their results.
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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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