Siemens is a winner of the international 3D Printing Industry Award in the category "3D Printing application of the year". The company was honored for the worldwide first successful test of gas turbine blades manufactured with Additive Manufacturing (AM).
Earlier this year, Siemens announced a breakthrough in 3D printing: an international project team with contributions from Siemens engineers in Finspång/Sweden, Lincoln/UK and Berlin/Germany together with experts from Materials Solutions in Worcester/UK successfully finished performance testing under full-load conditions of the first gas turbine blades ever to be produced using AM.
The turbine blades were installed in a 13-megawatt (MW) SGT-400-type industrial gas turbine. The printed turbine blades were produced from a high-temperature-resistant, powdered polycrystalline nickel-based superalloy and are able to withstand the high pressures, extreme temperatures, and centrifugal forces that arise during turbine operation.
Gas turbine blades must withstand extreme conditions. Inside a turbine, high pressures, tremendous centrifugal forces, and high temperatures prevail: At full power, blades rotate at 1,600 km/h - twice the speed that a Boeing 737 can fly - and carry loads of 11 tons, which is approximately the weight of a fully loaded London double-decker bus. The blades must also withstand tremendous heat because they're surrounded by 1,250°C gas when the turbine is in full operation.
Until now, blades for gas turbines were either cast or forged. The casting of turbine blades requires complex mold construction before each blade can be individually cast - a complex, time-consuming, and costly procedure. Additive manufacturing changes all this. With AM, a laser beam is directed at fine layers of metal powder, which are heated and melted. When the laser is removed, the metal cools. The process is repeated layer by layer until the blade model from the 3D printer is finished. Thanks to additive manufacturing, the team was able to reduce the period of time from the design of a new gas turbine blade to its production from two years to two months.
"We are very glad to receive this award for our printed turbine blades and we are especially proud as the votes stem from members of the Additive Manufacturing community," said Phil Hatherley, General Manager Materials Solutions - A Siemens Business. "With this award we show that Siemens as a technology driver can play a decisive role in the future of Additive Manufacturing. And we are ready to take the next steps in this development."
Additive Manufacturing has the potential to become a key technology in the production of gas turbine components. Siemens has been investing in this innovative technology right from its inception, and is now driving the industrialization and commercialization of these processes. Besides the awarded turbine blades, Siemens is using the innovative technology to produce burner tips, burner nozzles and to repair burner heads. The international team of experts with the innovation centers located in Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom are transforming the new design possibilities into specific solutions for Siemens' customers.
Source and top image: Siemens
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: 3D Printing USA 2017 on 15 - 16 Nov 2017 in Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, USA hosted by IDTechEx.