The US Air Force (USAF) and GE Additive are researching using additive manufacturing (AM) to make what they call ‘cold start’ aircraft engine components.

These are components that can take over 300 days to procure, GE says. The company suggests that the USAF has over 800 engine ‘cold starts’ each year.   

“The first priority for the USAF and GE team has been to create digital 3D technical data packages (TDPs) for hard to procure, obsolete ‘cold start’ parts and deliver four airworthy, near-net castings,” said Alexa Polites, program manager, GE Additive. “These TDPs will eventually mean that part obsolescence will be a thing of the past.”

The team plans to create at least five TDPs, increasing in technical complexity.

“The teaming of GE and the USAF legitimizes utilization of additive manufacturing to address critical needs of the aging aircraft that are currently unsupported within the existing supply chain,” said Zack Miller, chief, advanced manufacturing program office, Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office.

The companies say that they have already printed two components, a bellcrank and a cross shaft arm, made of cobalt-chrome on a Concept Laser M2 Series 5, at GE Additive‘s facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. Work has also progressed on additional components using Alloy 718.