Company achieves breakthrough with 3D printed gas turbines blades

Company achieves breakthrough with 3D printed gas turbines blades

  • By IES
  • Posted 2 years ago
  • Reading Time : 10 minutes

The engine components were successfully tested at high speeds and temperatures

Siemens has achieved a breakthrough by completing its first full load engine tests for gas turbine blades entirely produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology. The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions.

This means that the components were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250°C. Furthermore, Siemens tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry created using the AM technology. The project team used blades manufactured at its 3D printing facility at Materials Solutions, the newly acquired company in Worcester, UK. Materials Solutions specialises in high performance parts for high temperature applications in turbomachinery where accuracy, surface finish and the material quality is critical to ensuring operational performance of the parts in service. The tests were conducted at the Siemens testing facility in the industrial gas turbine factory in Lincoln, UK.

According to Siemens, this is a major development in the use of AM in the power generation field - which is one of the most challenging application areas for this technology.

AM is one of the main pillars in Siemens’ digitalisation strategy. The successful tests were the result of a dedicated international project team, with contributions from Siemens engineers in Finspång, Lincoln and Berlin, together with experts from Materials Solutions. In just 18 months they completed the entire chain, from component design and AM material development to new methods for lifting simulations and quality controls. With the combined know-how in 3D printing, Siemens is expected to continue driving technological developments and applications  in this field.

The blades were installed in a Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine with a capacity of 13 MW. The AM turbine blades are made from high performing, polycrystalline nickel superalloy powder, enabling them to endure high pressure, hot temperatures and the rotational forces of the turbine’s high speed operation. At full load, each of these turbine blades travels at over 1,600 km/h, carrying 11 t and is surrounded by gas at 1,250°C and cooled by air at over 400 °C.

The advanced blade design tested in Lincoln provides improved cooling features that can increase overall efficiency of the Siemens gas turbines.

AM is a process that builds parts, layer-by-layer, from sliced CAD models, to form solid objects. Also known as ‘3D printing’, it especially provides benefits in rapid prototyping. This exciting technology is changing the method of manufacturing, by reducing the lead time for prototype development, by up to 90%.

Siemens is a pioneer in AM and has the ability to accelerate the development of new gas turbine designs, in order to bring these advancements faster to its customers. This new flexibility in manufacturing also allows the company to completely meet customers’ requirements and provide spare parts on demand.

The successful test of the advanced blade design is the next step, in order to use the full potential of AM. Siemens is developing unique gas turbine designs which are possible only with AM. The company extensively uses AM technology for rapid prototyping and has already introduced serial production solutions for components in the gas turbine’s compressor and combustion system. In February 2016, Siemens opened a new production facility for 3D printed components in Finspång, Sweden. The first 3D printed component for a Siemens heavy-duty gas turbine entered commercial operation in July 2016.

Siemens completed its first full load engine tests for conventional and completely new gas turbine blades, produced using AM technology

The blades had to endure 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250°C.

Republished with permission from The Singapore Engineer, February 2016