One Man’s Dream to Bring 3-D Printing to Aircraft Engines

Don Godfrey was a champion of Additive Manufacturing – also known as 3-D printing – long before many people had heard the term.

What started as his solitary, passion project in Honeywell’s engines business now has developed into a multi-year, multi-million dollar competitive advantage that is putting Honeywell at the forefront of Additive Manufacturing (AM).

He recently was awarded the Honeywell Aerospace Navigator Award in recognition of his initiative and perseverance to bring the technology to the engines business and beyond.

An Aerospace Engineering Fellow, Godfrey first saw the potential for the technology in a meeting eight years ago with Morris Technologies. That’s the small Cincinnati company credited with bringing 3-D printed metal to North America.

When he heard they were printing test-rakes for GE, light bulbs went off in his head. At the time, Godrey was working on Honeywell’s HTF7500 turbofan engine and needed a particular part in three months.

Since the casting house supplier said it would take a year to complete the part in the traditional way, Godfrey and his section lead decided to give the 3-D method a try. Eight weeks later, he was holding the needed part in his hand.

Before many others in the industry, Godfrey recognized the manufacturing possibilities for Direct Metal Laser Sintering – a 3-D printing method for metals – as a solution for rapid prototyping and tool-making and eventually as a production method for airworthy hardware.

The geometrical freedom DMLS allows – designing parts virtually free of manufacturing constraints – results in lighter designs, reduced part counts and less costly hardware.

He also advocated 3-D printed sand technologies for aerospace applications, now deployed on Honeywell’s HTF and 777X turbine engine programs.

Today, several parts have completed testing and achieved source one status. The Federal Aviation Administration recently certified the first production part using the process for a Honeywell auxiliary power unit.

Thanks to Godfrey’s advocacy, Honeywell Aerospace has implemented an Additive Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence. He drove the creation of four global AM labs and now is deploying AM throughout Honeywell.

He is also behind 16 patents that have been granted, with Honeywell also generating revenue by licensing its technology.

Much of Honeywell benefits from Godfrey’s 3-D printing expertise these days as he consults with other company business groups. He’s also responsible for staying ahead of new developments with the technology, so he regularly consults with national government laboratories and universities.

Through the years, Godfrey has seen resistance to 3-D printing fade as parts become reality. He continues to look into the future and consider ways the technology will evolve, noting it’s been very rewarding to go from hearing the technology is a pipe dream and only for prototypes to actually printing production parts.