GE made the first test run of its remarkably inventively named Advanced Turboprop engine last week, and it was a success. The mainstream public imagines that manufacturers will be able to print entire engines—flip a switch, to go lunch, and when you come back, there’s an engine—but the truth is, if anything, more remarkable than that. The GE engine, the company claims, makes use of additive processing (essentially, 3-D printing with metal and to remarkably fine tolerances) to cut down parts count tremendously. The new engine has 15 percent fewer parts than comparable turboprop engines and many of those parts eliminate assemblies composed of multiple parts. Many of those assemblies exist as a collection of parts only because of the fact that before additive manufacturing, there was no other way to make them.
The end result is that the new engine will be lighter, able to withstand greater pressures and temperatures and will therefore be more fuel-efficient. How much more? GE claims as much as 20 percent more, and if that winds up coming to pass (or even close to it), the game will have changed fundamentally.
The Advanced Turboprop engine’s first customer is Textron Aviation, which plans to put the powerplant in its emerging Cessna Denali single-engine Pilatus PC-12 competitor. The Denali is slated to make its first flight late this year.
Learn more at GE Aviation.