When it comes to 3D printing parts for aircraft and other heavy machinery, engineers have barely scratched the surface. Using a technique called direct metal laser melting, engineers at GE Aviation have created a mini jet engine that fits in your backpack (albeit, a large one) and can also roar up to 33,000 RPM, and it comes right out of a 3D printer.


“We wanted to see if we could build a little engine that runs almost entirely out of additive manufacturing parts,” says one of the engineers. “This was a fun side project.”

The mini engine was built over the course of several years by engineers at GE Aviation’s Additive Development Center outside Cincinnati, Ohio. It is not as complex as a full-size jet engine, but is based on a design for a radio-controlled aircraft engine, which the engineers modified for the 3D printing process.

Related: Students are creating $350 bionic arms for children using 3D printing

Each part was printed using high-strength high-temperature alloys and then polished and assembled into the engine, which measures only about a foot long. The engineers tested their mini engine in a facility usually used to test full-size engines and managed to take it to 33,000 RPM without incident.

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“There are really a lot of benefits to building things through additive,” says Matt Benvie, spokesman for GE Aviation. “You get speed because there’s less need for tooling and you go right from a model or idea to making a part. You can also get geometries that just can’t be made any other way.”

Via ZME Science

Images via GE Aviation