GE Aviation says that its plant in Loyang, Singapore, is the first maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility worldwide that has been approved to use metal additive manufacturing (AM) for commercial jet engine component repairs.

According to the company, GE Aviation Engine Services Singapore (GE AESS) currently employs more than 1,700 employees and accounts for more than 60% of GE Aviation’s global repair volume.

“Using our GE Additive Concept Laser M2 machines typically halves the amount of time it takes us to repair these aircraft parts,” said Iain Rodger, MD.

Rodger added that his engineers are already using additive technology to repair parts in GE Aviation’s CF6 engines. They next plan to repair parts on the CFM56, the best-selling engine in commercial aviation history.

3D printing can be used to repair high-pressure compressor (HPC) blades that run at high speeds and tight clearances within aircraft engines, according to GE. They face regular erosion and wear and tear that, over time, demand continuous repair and replacement. Repairing these blade tips used to require a long process of cutting, welding and grinding to create the proper shape. Using AM, engineers can reportedly create image-analysis software that maps the shape of a used blade and creates customized instructions for the Concept Laser M2 machine to build a new tip. The 3D-printed part is near-net shape and can be finished with minimal additional processing, the company said.

“Productivity has increased with our employees able to repair twice as many parts in a day compared to the conventional repair process,” said Rodger. “Less equipment is also needed for post-processing so the floor space required is reduced by one third.

“Further to that we are currently assessing what we are going to do in turbine parts and other components beyond compressors.

“To me one of the significant advantages of additive is its sustainability. This is going to allow us to repair more parts and throw fewer parts into the bin, use less energy, generate less waste and have a smaller footprint.”