We’ve been following GE in a zigzag around the map as they’ve opened facilities from a smart factory in Chakan, India to their latest $40 million Center for Additive Technology Advancement in Pittsburgh. As many millions are poured into these new additive manufacturing centers, one must wonder what they are researching and planning to produce further, as we read about 3D printed engine components and their plans to help an entire additive manufacturing ecosystem unfold.
Today we are in the know regarding the ‘what’s next’ from GE as they announce a next-generation private plane that will feature an engine with numerous 3D printed parts, as well as offering more power with less gas consumption. The concept for the Cessna Denali was unveiled by both GE Aviationand Textron Aviation at the EAA AirVentures Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin earlier this week, which has been eventful. There, visitors were able to see a mock-up of the plane’s engine design, as well as a physical sample of cabin architecture.
As far as 3D printing is involved, the engine—designed by GE—offers numerous, complex parts 3D printed in metal with titanium and steel. According to GE Reports, these new parts will replace what in a traditional engine would have amounted to ‘hundreds of individual parts.’
Although this is a small turboprop plane, pilots will fly it like it is a jet, enjoying the streamlined design with just one level controlling the engine and propeller. This is possible as GE integrated jet engine technology into the Denali which features what they call a ‘clean sheet’ design. The engine will use 20% less fuel, while attaining 10% more power in comparison to another plane engine in its class. The design and 3D printed parts obviously will be paying off nicely as the machine is expected to offer GE $40 billion in revenue within 25 years, according to Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and CEO.
At $4.8 million, the Cessna is available at an entry-level price, with all the features and creature comforts of a small jet, including the largest cabin for a Cessna, seating eight. This new engine is also powerful enough to go from Los Angeles to Chicago or to Miami from New York. Stemming from GE Aviation’s acquisition of Walter Aircraft Engines eight years ago, the new engine design represents that investment coming to fruition, finally. In that time, engineers from both Prague and the US have had their heads down in the R&D department working to design an engine that would be both innovative and profitable for GE. This all came together when Textron, with their eyes on the new engine design, announced that they’d like to use it in the next generation Cessna.
The GE turboprop engine, featuring a number of 3D printed parts [Image: GE Aviation]
A combination of Walter and GE turboprop technology, this new design is based on engines that come from a solid foundation with over 20 million hours in flight and service for 30 different planes; however, with the addition of GE’s jet technology, even greater credibility is added in terms of hours logged with these types of engines. The only kicker is that no one has ever used this technology in a turboprop like the Cessna. The designers used ‘variable stator vanes,’ originally developed for supersonic jet enginesby Gerhard Neumann—a legend in engineering at GE. The design also features:
3D printed parts which debuted in the LEAP jet engine
Air cooled turbine blades
Integrated propulsion system
With the combination of knowledge and technology from both Walter and GE, this small private plane promises high performance, efficiency, and will be able to extend engine overhaul times significantly at over 30 percent.
And if you’re raring to go with the checkbook ready to dispense four or five million, you can go ahead and order your Cessna Denali. You won’t, however, be seeing it in the air for at least a couple of years, as the maiden voyage is planned for 2018, according to Michael Thacker, senior vice president of engineering at Textron.
“The order book is open,” says Kriya Shortt, Textron senior vice president for sales and marketing.
This Cessna Denali collaboration marks one more contribution to the world of aerospace and aviation by GE, and is a further display of their commitment to 3D printing, offering unprecedented improvements and innovation within their industry. To follow further updates and for more information on this new plane, see Textron Aviation.
[Source/Images: GE Reports]