After years of maturation and prototype testing, helicopter engine manufacturer Turbomeca (Safran) has entered serial production of parts using the latest additive manufacturing (3D printing) process at its Bordes facility in France.
Arrano test and production engines will feature fuel injector nozzles made using Selective Laser Melting (SLM) techniques. (Turbomeca introduced the Arrano 1,100 shp turboshaft engine at Heli-Expo in 2013. The engine is designed to power four-to-six ton helicopters and fits between the Arriel and Ardiden performance ranges.) This process will also be used to manufacture Ardiden 3 combustor swirlers. These engines are Turbomeca’s latest models.
|Turbomeca 3D-printed components.|
Additive manufacturing produces parts to a three-dimensional CAD (computer-aided design) model. Unlike traditional manufacturing processes (forging and machining) which are based on material removal, additive manufacturing builds layers, each between 20 and 100-micrometers thick, of fine metal powder to produce complex-shape parts. In the case of SLM, a computer-controlled laser shoots pinpoint beams onto a bed of nickel-based super-alloy powder, to melt the metal in the desired areas.
Additive Manufacturing also simplifies the manufacturing process. A traditional fuel-injector nozzle is made up from dozens different pieces. Arrano component is made from one single piece of material and features advanced injection and cooling functions. One SLM machine is already in service, and qualified for mass production, with others to be integrated over the coming years.
Additive manufacturing is part of Turbomeca’s ambitious “Future Line” program designed to improve all its manufacturing capabilities. By introducing new, high-end machine tools and new processes such as additive manufacturing and HVOF (High Velocity Oxy-Fuel) coatings, Turbomeca says it will significantly improve its compressor and turbine blade manufacturing capabilities at Bordes.
Turbomeca (Safran) has produced 70,000 turbines based on its own designs since the company was founded.