Siemens Power and Gas recently announced a new breakthrough in the 3D printing of gas turbine blades.
Experts at Siemens Power and Gas have full-load tested gas-turbine blades that were entirely produced via 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, methods.
The tests were conducted at the Siemens test center for industrial gas turbines in England.
The aerospace industry is leading the way for adoption of 3d printing technologies for manufacturing applications. With widespread adoption of additive manufacturing for jigs, fixtures, and tooling applications on the shop floor, as well as companies like United Launch Alliance and Airbus qualifying additively manufactured high performance thermoplastic parts for flight applications, the future of the industry is starting to take shape.
For several months, Siemens engineers from the company’s locations in England, Germany, and Sweden worked with experts from the company’s materials solutions division to optimize the gas turbine blades and their production.
The printed turbine blades were produced from a high-temperature-resistant, powdered polycrystalline, nickel-based superalloy and are able to withstand the high pressures, extreme temperatures, and centrifugal forces that arise during turbine operation.
Thanks to additive manufacturing, the team was able to reduce the period of time from the design of a new gas turbine blade to its production from two years to two months, said Willi Meixner, CEO of Siemens Power and Gas Division.
The test turbine blades were installed for testing in a 13-megawatt SGT-400-type industrial gas turbine.
Over the space of eight months, the international project team developed the process chain, from the design of individual components, to the development of materials, to new methods of quality control and the simulation of component service life, Meixner said.
The printed turbine blades were produced from a high-temperature-resistant, powdered polycrystalline nickel-based superalloy and are able to withstand the high pressures, extreme temperatures, and centrifugal forces that arise during turbine operation.
Gas turbine blades must withstand extreme conditions. Inside a turbine, high pressures, tremendous centrifugal forces, and high temperatures prevail: At full power, blades rotate at 1,600 kilometers per hour–twice the maximum flying speed of a Boeing 737 can fly–and carry loads of 11 tons.
The blades also need to withstand tremendous heat because they’re surrounded by 1,250 degrees Celsius gas when the turbine is in full operation.
“Additive manufacturing technology changes the way we produce. Using this technology, we can develop prototypes up to 90 percent faster,” Meixner said.
“We’re speeding up the development of new gas turbines with higher efficiency levels and increased availability and can thus deliver these improvements to our customers faster,” he added. “The new flexibility in production allows us to more precisely tailor development to our customers’ requirements and deliver individual spare parts on demand.”
In addition, Siemens tested a new additively manufactured blade design with a revised and improved internal cooling geometry, Meixner added.