Jet Engine Bracket from Indonesia Wins 3D Printing Challenge

December 11, 2013

A jet engine bracket designed by M Arie Kurniawan, an engineer from Salatiga in Central Java, Indonesia, came in first place in a global 3D printing challenge held by GE and the open engineering community GrabCAD. Kurniawan will receive $7,000 in prize money. GE and GrabCAD also selected seven other design winners who will divide the balance of the $20,000 prize pool.

GE and GrabCAD launched the 3D Printing Design Quest in June. They challenged the public to redesign a metal jet engine bracket, making it 30 percent lighter while preserving its integrity and mechanical properties like stiffness.

The bracket attaches to the outside of the engine. Manufacturing and maintenance crews use it to manipulate jet engines like the GEnx, which weighs 12,800 pounds.image

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The original bracket (below) weighed 2,033 grams (4.48 pounds), but M Arie Kurniawan was able to slash its weight by nearly 84 percent to just 327 grams (0.72 pounds). His design, inspired by the H-beam profile, is featured above.

Participants from 56 countries submitted nearly 700 bracket designs to the Quest. In September, the partners picked 10 finalists who received $1,000 each.

Aviation 3D printed the 10 shortlisted designs at its additive manufacturing plant in Cincinnati, Ohio. GE workers made the brackets from a titanium alloy on a direct metal laser melting (DMLM) machine, which uses a laser beam to fuse layers of metal powder into the final shape.

The team then sent the finished brackets to GE Global Research (GRC) in Niskayuna, New York, for destruction testing. GRC engineers strapped each bracket to an MTS servo-hydraulic testing machine and exposed it to axial loads ranging from 8,000 to 9,500 pounds.

Only one of the brackets failed and the rest advanced to a torsional test, where they were exposed to torque of 5,000 inch-pounds.

Kurniawan’s bracket had the best combination of stiffness and light weight. The original bracket weighed 2,033 grams (4.48 pounds), but Kurniawan was able to slash its weight by nearly 84 percent to just 327 grams (0.72 pounds).

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GE and GrabCAD asked designers to improve upon this bracket. It weighs 2,033 grams

He says that he was inspired by the H-beam profile because it can handle both a vertical and horizontal load. “3D printing will be available for everyone in the very near future,” says Kurniawan, who runs a small engineering and design firm called DTECH-ENGINEERING with his brother. “That’s why I want to be familiar with additive manufacturing as soon as possible.”

GE Aviation is already testing 3D printed fuel nozzles inside an actual jet engine on a test stand in Peebles, Ohio. “We believe additive manufacturing methods like 3D printing will be pervasive,” says Michael Idelchik, who runs advanced technologies research at GE. “We already know that it can be done. But now we have to get the people with the right talents to embrace it and create an ecosystem of designers, suppliers and materials scientists.”

Says Idelchik: “You need almost an artistic approach to design, the ability to model and analyze structures, and also the knowledge to pick the right materials and the correct manufacturing equipment. There is a lot that goes into the mix, and collaboration is the perfect tool for finding the best solution.”