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Honeywell Jump Starts Jet Engine Innovation with 3D Printing

Honeywell Jump Starts Jet Engine Innovation with 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing is helping us trim many months off the development timeline for a next-generation family of turbofan engines that could transform the future of flight. In fact, we’re one of the first jet engine manufacturers to use ceramic 3D printed molds to make turbine blades.

“Traditionally, turbine blades are made through an investment casting process that only a few foundries in the world can handle,” said Honeywell Chief Manufacturing Engineer Brian Baughman. “It involves machining extremely complex metal dies and tooling to create ceramic molds, which are then cast with a molten superalloy to form the blades.”

Today, we’re using vat-based high-resolution 3D printing technology to process ceramic slurry and print the molds directly. Utilizing a state-of-the-art printer developed by 3D industrial printing pioneer Prodways Group, we’ve dramatically reduced the time and cost of producing first-stage high pressure turbine blades.

“With the conventional investment casting process, it can take one to two years to produce the turbine blades needed for the development process,” said Mike Baldwin, Principal R&D Scientist. “Additive manufacturing lets us take the design, print the mold, cast it, test it and get real numbers to validate our models – all in just seven to eight weeks. If we need to tweak the design, we can change it electronically and get another blade in about six weeks.”

Before 3D printing, even minor changes to the blade design could be very costly, he said. “Additive manufacturing enables rapid prototyping and gives us greater flexibility to accelerate development, manage costs and create the best possible product for our customers. Reducing development cycle time is our primary objective, but we also anticipate saving several million dollars in development costs compared to using the traditional blade casting process.”

In 2023, we installed Prodways' newest MOVINGLight printer, the ProMaker Ceram Pro 365, at our additive manufacturing center in Phoenix. It’s the latest example of a deep technical collaboration that started in 2016, and has seen multiple L5000 printers added to our fleet of Prodways machines.

“Our 3D printers are a perfect match for this use case,” said Michaël Ohana, Prodways Group CEO. “We can process ceramic slurries to build a large number of parts in a single day and deliver consistent manufacturing results at every print.”

Additive manufacturing is ideal for producing precision components in relatively low volumes, Baughman said. “Low volumes are often a struggle since the upfront tooling cost for a turbine blade is very high and fabrication requires a long lead time. Additive manufacturing makes a lot of sense in cases like this.”

Honeywell began additive manufacturing in 2007 at our lab in Phoenix. Today, we produce hundreds of aircraft components with 3D printing, and have expanded our industry-leading efforts to our operations in China, Europe, India and across the United States.

As a leading provider of turbine propulsion engines for business aircraft, military trainers and helicopters, we are actively developing a new family of turbofan engines that will be lighter, quieter and more powerful, and able to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

Mike Baldwin
Principal R&D Engineer

Honeywell Aerospace Technologies