Today GE Global Research announced that it has been awarded two projects under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) Program. Teams of Global Research experts will work with teams at Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Labs on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers to improve 3D printing processes and explore new concepts for higher jet engine efficiency.
As part of the 3D printing project, GE researchers will partner with Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) to improve laser technologies involved in additive manufactured parts. Today, lasers are used in a process called direct metal laser melting (DMLM) to weld parts as they are built up in a bed of powder. One of the challenges GE and ORNL researchers are looking to address is to more finely control the area of material impacted by the laser melting process.
Lang Yuan, project leader and mechanical engineer in the Manufacturing Processes and Systems Lab at GE Global Research, said, “Much of the recent growth in additive manufacturing can be attributed to the incredible advances we have seen in lasers and increased computing power. As we look to expand additive manufacturing into complex metal parts and more industrial applications, this project will help us deliver the new capabilities that are needed to help us meet future needs.”
GE today is one of the world’s largest producers of additive manufactured metal parts. With 3D printed parts being used in two different jet engine platforms, GE built the first mass production additive facility in the U.S. in Auburn, Alabama. The new facility is building parts and getting more machines on line every month. As productions scales up, researchers in the Additive Manufacturing Lab at Global Research are continuing to explore the production of new parts, new processes and even next generation concepts for machines to improve capabilities in additive manufacturing.
In a second project, engineers from Global Research and GE’s Aviation business will partner with both ORNL and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) to conduct highly advanced studies of air turbulence that could lead to more optimal jet engine designs that deliver higher efficiency. The team is hoping to achieve new design concepts that could boost fuel efficiency by five or more percentage points. With an estimated 35 billion gallons of fuel used by the airline industry each year, five percent would save the industry several billions of dollars in fuel savings.
Jason Dees, project leader and Manager of the Hot Gas Path Lab at GE Global Research, said, “High performance computing is opening our eyes to new insights that previously could not be seen or arrived at in accelerated timeframe these super powerful systems are allowing. Through our studies with ORNL and LLNL, we hope our advanced turbulence studies clear the air for better engine designs that save airlines billions of dollars and fuel and a better environment with substantially lower emissions.”
The Advanced Manufacturing Office within the Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy created and funds this program. The HPC4Mfg projects also support the Energy Department’s broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to increase U.S. competitiveness through manufacturing clean energy technologies, boosting energy productivity and leveraging low-cost domestic energy resources and feedstocks.