If you've been following along as new technologies advance, you already know 3D printing is heavily hyped. Just think of all of the things we'll be able to print on demand, they say, unfortunately, those things
usually look ... not very functional often disappoint. Lately, though, the quality has been rising while the variety of the parts and pieces being printed is moving into new territory.
GE has been at the forefront of 3D printing and is using printed parts in medical products and even commercial jet engines, but the engineers at GE decided to take on a little side project and print an entire jet engine to see if it could be done. Of course, if you work at GE, you have all of the best toys to play with and those guys started with a jet engine being used in radio control model airplanes and improved it so it would work with additive manufacturing. They also had access to alloys not available to the hobbyist community.
Using a process called DMLM, or Direct Metal Laser Melting, they printed all of the parts and afterwards did a little machining and polishing before final assembly. Then they set up data acquisition systems to measure exhaust gas temperature, engine speed and thrust. The whole setup was placed in a test cell at GE Aviation. It ran quite nicely and during the test hit speeds of 33,000 rpm.
These printers and alloys may not be found in hobbyist garages, at least not yet, but it shows the potential of the technology is advancing far beyond the plastic trinket stage. As noted by GE and as we've noted before, the geometries possible with 3D printing go beyond what can be achieved with normal machining and the improved alloys make parts possible that could not have been printed before. Every time someone does something like this, it paves the way for something even more complex. This is impressive and makes you wonder what we'll see next.
Link: GE Reports