3D Printed components in Aerospace

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GE Additive Centre in Ohio 3D prints parts for it’s aircraft engines ! Profound as that may seem, where reliability and caution in manufacture is paramount in the aerospace industry, it is today’s reality. In fact 35% of components in it’s Advanced Turbo Prop engine are 3D printed. Not just GE are moving in this direction, Airbus are making the largest ever 3D printed cabin component in the form of a partition wall that locates between the seating area and the gallery.

Advantages of 3D printing are: weight saving, zero material wastage in manufacture (compared with ~ 90% wastage for traditional methods), shorter lead times from design concept to finished operational part, and lastly but most importantly the  manufacture of complex parts that cannot be made any other way.

Materials that can be printed are: plastics, carbon, aluminium, titanium, stainless steel

3D printing is a collective term for a host of different additive manufacturing methods to make a part. A 3D CAD model is sliced up into layers – as thin as 20 to 30 µm. A machine then uses these to build up a 3D design. Methods fall into 3 different categories:

  1. Direct Energy deposition – a nozzle pushes out a solid wire of metal, a laser beam shines directly on to material creating a focused melt pool on top of a substrate. Robots manipulate these to create 3D part.
  2. Powder-bed electron beam melting – an electron beam focuses on a powder bed of material. As it moves the beam melts the powder forming a solid layer. Layers build and part is created.
  3. Fused deposition modelling – most commercial – a nozzle heats up and deposits a thermoplastic filament to create the part in a number hours. A traditional method would take weeks.

Rightly though, some large companies are cautious, such as Rolls Royce, in adopting this technology for mission critical parts in their engines because mechanical properties are still suspected to be inferior to parts made from tried & tested manufacturing methods – fatigue stress in service is probably the highest concern. Potentially lives are at stake here and reliability is paramount, and any failures ultimately hit reputation and then share price.

Conversely though Siemens are 3D printing turbine blades for their gas turbines that run at twice the speed of aircraft engines at a temperature of 1250 °C ! Injury or fatalities due to a failure though, would be near to zero or limited in this case.

As the technology becomes more accepted & proven, I think we can expect more of our aircraft to be made from 3D printed components, producing lighter and less expensive aeroplanes !

Hope you have a good month

All the best


A little light relief

some more alternative exam answers …  !

Funny Exam Answers #11_

Funny Exam Answers #12_


Posted in 3d, 3D Printing, aerodynamics, AIRCRAFT, business, cad, design, Energy, engine, failure, humor, humour, Industry, jet engine, manufacturing, material science, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, precision engineering, printing, technology, turbine, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Car weight is now becoming material !


Al Car Structure_  Al Car Structure_#3

Al Car Structure_#2  Al Car Structure_#4

An age old concern that is now higher on the agenda for manufacturers is overweight vehicles. Traditionally cars have always been made from steel for the structure & ‘body in white’ components, with plastics for trim and other aesthetic and non stressed parts.

The benefits for lighter vehicles are multiple – reduced fuel consumption, emissions, greater performance, and for electric cars greater range which can be a sticking point for potential customers.

Kieron Salter MD of consultancy KW Special Projects, says “lightweighting is a challenge for the two hot areas of chassis & body in white, as well as for the powertrain & other structural components”. New materials with accompanying new manufacturing techniques are often more expensive in general. New emerging companies though can benefit from this new demand, because unlike the established competition they don’t have significant capital investment in traditional production infrastructure and can flex more easily into newer technologies.

The general trend is for a greater use of aluminium, and composites such as carbon fibre already used on more expensive sports cars, which have a high strength to weight ratio. Magnesium and titantium are also being researched & developed – magnesium is 33% lighter than Aluminium and 75% lighter than steel.

New traditional materials are also being introduced, such as ‘low density steel’ – higher strength steels that can be produce lower part volumes and therefore weight. An example of this is being carried out by WMG consultants for Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin, known as the Ultran Project. Powertrain gears are being made lighter due to higher strength steels, and new lightweight exhaust systems that are matching the performance of the old ones and are 50% lighter.

With new materials comes new manufacturing challenges and one is the joining process. Aluminium and steel for example cannot be welded together and also there is the problem of galvanic corrosion in service. Companies though such as General Motors have come up with new innovative joining techniques, one of which is using adhesives on their production lines for their Cadillac CT6.

Another exciting move going forward, is the growing relationship between University Research Centres and manufacturers which is moving the automotive industry forward at a pace. Examples of this are: Mclaren and Sheffield University, Meridian Light Weight Technologies and Birmingham City University, and there are many more.

With the growing market share of electric cars the need for car manufacturers to reduce weight is now paramount to entice new customers to the new age of electric, without the stumbling block of low range.

Hope you have a great month

All the best,


A little light relief

some more alternative exam answers …  !

Funny Exam Answers #9_Funny Exam Answers #10_

Posted in business, Car, carbon fibre, design, electric vehicle, Energy, Engineering, environment, humor, humour, manufacturing, material science, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, technology, Uncategorized, university | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cars recover energy from pot holes

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Regenaritive Suspension_#2_


Where we live we have a generous amount of ‘pot’ holes in the road – the county of Buckinghamshire in the UK !

The automotive industry has developed car suspension prototypes that can reclaim energy lost by ‘falling’ into these irregularities in the road, and they are known as Regenerative Suspension Systems.

There are 3 types to date – ones using Linear Electromagnetic Transducers that convert kinetic energy into electricity – then secondly systems that convert linear motion into rotational motion that are used to power geared electromagnetic motors – then thirdly mechanical motion rectifiers (MMR) which converts linear oscillatory motion of shock absorbers into unidirectional rotation motion, in a similar way to electrical voltage rectifiers convert AC to DC power.

All the systems cost more to manufacture presently than traditional dampers, but over time they expect prices to tumble. Audi are a year or 2 away from perfecting their eROT system and replacing traditional hydraulic dampers with electromechanical rotary ones,  harvesting kinetic energy and converting it into electrical energy, leading to a reduction in CO2 and fuel costs. Tests have shown that on average 100 to 150W is recovered by eROT on normal roads, and up to 613W on rough roads!

Another advantage of these new suspension systems is that their ‘performance’ can be fine tuned to a greater degree than traditional ones – so a win win situation, there is just the challenge of costs and commercial viability in introducing this new technology – but the future does look positive despite possible bumps in the road or is it ‘pot’ holes !

Hope you have a great month,

All the best,


A little light relief

some more alternative exam answers …  !

Funny Exam Answers #7_

Funny Exam Answers #8_

Posted in business, Car, design, Energy, Engineering, humor, humour, manufacturing, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, power generation, quotations, quotes, renewable energy, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Space tourism – starting to take off !

space-tourism-craft_1  space-tourism-craft_4

Official definition: Space tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes.

A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, hoping to create a sub-orbital space tourism industry. The one ahead presently in the race to be the first to operate is Richard Branson’s company Virgin Galactic.

The first space tourist to fund his own trip into space was Dennis Tito, an American engineer and multimillionaire in 2001. He spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station.

Recently on Feb 24th Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo aced its third unpowered free flight, a glide test that marked the first time at the new space plane’s controls for one former NASA astronaut.

Hot off the press yesterday was an announcement by SpaceX‘s founder Elon Musk, who stated that they will fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon in 2018 ! The private spaceflight company will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to send the two paying passengers into space aboard one of the company’s Dragon spacecraft. The two private citizens, who have not yet been named, approached SpaceX about taking a trip around the moon, and have “already paid a significant deposit” for the cost of the mission. The names of the two individuals will be announced later, pending the result of initial health tests to ensure their fitness for the mission.

In the 49 years since the Russian Yuri Gagarin made his pioneering flight into space  512 people from 38 countries have experienced space travel. Some predict that very soon a similar number of space tourists could be traveling in sub-orbital space every year ! This could be a very exciting new business sector to be in – in more ways than one, with the cost per individual ranging between $50 million to $250 million per trip !

Below is a short video link of Virgin Galactica’s 3rd powered flight – enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwm3leZu-O0

Hope you have a great month

All the best,


A little light relief

some more alternative exam answers …  !

funny-exam-answers-4_   funny-exam-answers-6_  funny-exam-answers-5_


Posted in aerodynamics, AIRCRAFT, business, cad, design, Energy, engine, Engineering, humor, humour, Industry, jet engine, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, power generation, project engineering, quotations, record breaking, research science, rocket engine, space flight, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should I stay or should I go – the Internal Combustion Engine?

ic-engine-car-1900_   electric-car-1_

Electric cars are gaining market share and look to take over from the internal combustion (IC) engine that has been a familiar sight & sound for over 100 years ! It is estimated that electric car sales will over take IC car sales by 2030.

With this in mind, Professor Neville Jackson, Chief Technology Officer at Ricado, told a recent conference that although electrification of cars is the right approach, he believes the industry will need advanced combustion engines for heavier vehicles, such as lorries for haulage. Dr J. Jorg Ruger a President of Bosch’s commercial vehicle division seems to be echoing the same conviction. Both believe the IC engines need to greatly improve their thermodynamic efficiency. Presently  there is heat energy loss of 22% through the cooling system and 34 % through the exhaust pipe ! In addition there is aerodynamic drag by radiator cooling. Maximum thermal efficiency is ~ 50% – a little under par in the world of thermodynamics !

They agree improvements can be made in waste heat recovery systems. Indirect systems  take heat energy wastage from engine fluids and converts it into useful energy that can add power back into the engine, such as a steam turbo – efficiency increase  ~ 5%. Direct system is real time electrical control of superchargers and waste heat recovery devices that optimise exhaust gas re-circulation flow, air flow and general ‘breathing’ of the engine – efficiency increase ~ 20%. Both increase fuel economy and reduce emissions + NOx.

It looks like our old friend the IC engine is here to stay for a few more years yet !

Have a great month

All the best,


A little light relief

some alternative exam answers …  !



Posted in aerodynamics, business, Car, design, electric vehicle, Energy, engine, Engineering, environment, humor, humour, Industry, manufacturing, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, polution, power generation, quotations, quotes, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trust me I’m an Engineer !


A sample of images of how we sometimes get things wrong – enjoy !

Plus below a link to video clip of Peter Kay as a light way to end the year !


Happy & Prosperous 2017

All the best


Posted in architecture, civil, design, Engineering, failure, humor, humour, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, mistakes, project engineering, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vinyl Revival

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When I was growing up in the 70s & 80s vinyl albums and separates hi-fi units including top of the range turntables were essential to life ! I guess we thought it was all over when CDs came in, then later  iTunes and Spotify – but no vinyl is back! There has been strong growth in the market for the last 5 years. On the back of this, specialist turntable manufacturers are enjoying steady growth too. One such company is Rega based in Essex, which was started in 1973 as a hobby by Roy Gandy (ex automotive engineer) and friend Tony Relph. The early 80s saw a peak in the company’s production to 2000 units / month and then to drop down to 500 – today it’s risen to 4500 / month, and employing 120 staff ! Success has also been passed on to their supply chain, where many of the components are manufactured in the UK.

The turn tables themselves are high end products costing up to £3000, backed by intense on going research & design to continually eek out improvements to sound quality output. One area is the turn table platter that needs to be made from a high stiffness material such as phenolic resin, specialist glass or a ceramic called aluminium oxide. Other components under the spot light are the: light weight cartridge, balanced & light weight tone arm, diamond stylus, minimal friction bearings, smooth low noise motor, all meticulously scrutinised to eliminate vibration and friction, and ultimately wow, flutter and drift, to faithfully replicate the original recording.

For more info:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcJlvfulDLs

Have a great month

All the best,



“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

– Bob Marley

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

– Albert Einstein

Posted in acoustics, business, design, Engineering, humor, humour, manufacturing, material science, mechanical, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, music, precision engineering, quotations, quotes, recordings, research science, sound technology, technology, tracking motion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment