Rolls Royce to use 3D printing for jet engine parts

Rolls Royce is looking to the abilities of 3D printing to create parts for its jet engines, according to the company's head of technology strategy.

Rolls Royce: set to use 3D printing to create parts for its jet engines
Rolls Royce: set to use 3D printing to create parts for its jet engines

Henner Wapenhans said the company was a "few years away" from using 3D printing technology to produce parts that go into service, which could rapidly increase the lead times of creating parts, the Financial Times reported today.

Dr Wapenhans said: "3D printing opens up new possibilities, new design space. Through the 3D printing process, you’re not constrained [by] having to get a tool in to create a shape. You can create any shape you like."

The latest 3D printers are capable of building complex shapes from ceramics and metal, and Dr Wapenhans added that simple components, such as brackets, can be made "a lot lighter", but said the company is looking at "individual parts that are ready to be released into serious production, as opposed to large parts of an engine."

Rolls Royce is the latest company to take an interest in 3D printing technology. General Electric has stated that it plans to use the technology to create fuel nozzles for jet engines, while the environmentally friendly Urbee car, created in 2011, was made partly through 3D printing.

Last month, Marketing interviewed Cadbury’s innovation team on their use of 3D printing, and how the technology is changing its approach to innovation. 

Mondelez International’s Adam Harris told Marketing: "I can go and talk to our industrial design team now, we can sketch some ideas, by tomorrow they’ll have 3D CAD drawings done of those ideas. The following day, we’ll have a physical form that’s printed off a 3D printer and then the next day we can turn that from a model into an edible product."

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