Flying into the Future with Jet Planes
Jet planes have been around for such a long time now that it’s easy to take their incredible feats of engineering for granted, not thinking twice before stepping into a metal tube that defies the laws of gravity to fly many thousands of miles. But new technology is set to once again wow the masses, with engineers ready to use cutting edge 3D printing techniques to build the parts.
Don't Dismiss the Miracle
Jet planes are truly a modern day miracle, transporting thousands of individuals from one side of the world to the other in a matter of hours.
All over the world every year, billions of people travel trillions of miles by plane and statistically, they are incredibly safe, almost never failing. Even the most powerful jet engine in the world, the GE90-115B, is only calculated as shutting down once per million miles travelled, an incredible feat of reliability.
And of course, planes are not fitted with just one engine, but two or in some cases, four. A plane can travel on a single engine in an emergency which is why trans-Atlantic flights are now possible on jets with just two engines, rather than the four which used to be required
Times are A-Changing’
Although jet planes have been around since the 1930s, aviation technology hasn’t stood still and it’s set to take a further leap into the future with the increased use of 3D printing, referred to in the industry as additive manufacturing.
Some facilities are already using additive manufacturing for key jet parts, such as a General Electric base in Ohio where fuel nozzles are created this way. Using a fine metal powder melted by a Laser, a solid metal outline is gradually created which is ridiculously thin – just a third of the diameter of a human hair – but strong and solid enough to be used as a jet fuel nozzle. The old way of manufacturing these parts involved various components welding together, typically around 25 different pieces.
This innovative technology offers untold opportunities, in an age where there’s an increasing need to make planes lighter – in order to reduce their carbon footprint – without compromising safety. Engineers believe 3D printing offers just this. Other methods being considered to lighten the burden include using carbon fibre for the blades and helping turbines to spin more efficiently to save on fuel.
If all goes as planned, new lightweight planes could be taking to our skies anytime soon. Who would have thought the future was so close?
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