Siemens has been awarded “3D Printing Application of the year” by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The company received its honor for the first ever successful test of additive manufactured gas turbine blades at full load conditions. The blades, designed for the Siemens 13-megawatt SGT industrial gas turbine, were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute while exposed to temperatures beyond 1,250 degrees Celsius. At full load they were traveling at over 1000 MPH and carrying over 12 tons of force. The tests were the culmination of an 18-month multinational project which began with concept and design, and included development of AM materials, lifing simulation, and AM quality control. This is quite the achievement for Siemens and a breakthrough for the technology in general. As one Siemens representative put it, “If you can print a turbine blade, you can pretty much print anything.”
Siemens claims that by implementing additive manufacturing, their blade design team can reduce the time from concept to prototype testing down from two years to two months. Additionally, the team can test new integrated cooling channel designs that, without the use of additive manufacturing, would otherwise be impossible to produce. For Siemens’ Gas and Power division this is a significant breakthrough that will accelerate the development of new gas turbine designs, bringing advances faster to its customers with greater manufacturing flexibility.
How to Start Your Additive Journey If You’re Not Siemens
In the past few years Siemens has positioned itself as a pioneer in additive manufacturing and is clearly pushing the boundaries of what is achievable with modern AM technology. The company’s broad knowledge in materials sciences, automation, and manufacturing, and its expertise in product design and simulation provide a strong foundation for research and development. But as it turns out, an industrial pedigree and deep pockets are no longer required for companies to innovate with their own additive manufacturing programs.
AM systems suppliers, especially in the metal segment, have begun providing more rigorous training programs, geared towards guiding companies through their AM pilot projects. In a recent briefing with Renishaw, a market leader in metal AM, marketing manager Robin Weston explained to me their strategy for educating future customers. As Mr. Weston explain it, Renishaw has established “AM Solution Centers” which are secure environments with full AM capabilities, including offices, incubator cells, pre-production lines, and a host of other manufacturing resources, for clients to develop their knowledge and confidence with AM technology. Additionally, Renishaw provides onsite expertise to guide clients through design and business case development, which for the inexperienced can be fraught with pitfalls.
Research and development investment by companies like Siemens, and programs like the one provided by Renishaw are imperative for the growth of the additive manufacturing market. As it stands now, the technology is growing rapidly, but is clearly outpacing the application. By showing the world what’s possible, and by providing low risk avenues for adoption, these companies and others are establishing an environment for additive manufacturing to flourish.