Aerospace

Russia’s $2.6 billion jet engine to be made using additive manufacturing

The Aviadvigatel PD-35 is Russia’s next generation airline jet engine. With a projected budget of 160 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) development of the engine is expected for completion in the next 5 years, and additive manufacturing (or additive technology) is tipped to be an important part of the plan.

For the engine’s development, Russian commercial aircraft developer and builder Aviadvigatel is working with gas turbine manufacturer ODK-Saturn – a company home to the state-funded Additive Technology Center.

A United project

PD-35 development is funded in part by the United Engine Corporation (UEC), a member of Russian state corporation Rostec, and China’s AECC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co.

When completed, PD-35 turbines will fly the C929 long-haul, widebody passenger airliner.

From 2019 onwards, the United Engine Corporation also expects that additive technologies will be integrated in certified gas turbine engines.

So far, the UEC has allocated 64.3 billion rubles ($1.13 billion) in state funding for PD-35 research and development.

Metal 3D printed component. Photo via United Engine Corporation
Metal 3D printed component. Photo via United Engine Corporation

Additive manufacturing is “the only solution”

Topology optimization, i.e. lightweighting parts to reduce the cost but maximize the strength, is a key part of next generation engine development at ODK-Saturn. According to Denis Fedoseyev, deputy chief engineer at ODK-Saturn, “In many cases of topology optimization, additive technologies are the only solution for production of complex-profile parts.”

So far, ODK-Saturn has leveraged topology optimization and metal 3D printing techniques to make small and complex components including brackets, mechanical elements and components used inside combustion chambers.

By UEC deputy chief designer Dmitry Karelin’s count, “In 2016, Saturn used [additive technologies] to produce over 600 gas turbine elements made of stainless steel, cobalt and titanium alloys,”

“Somewhat 2% of the present-day engines fall upon components made by additive technologies. We’re about to increase this parameter up to 20%.”

Additive applications for the PD-35 were gleaned from the design for the Aviadvigatel PD-14 civil aircraft engine, scheduled for flight tests running 2019 through 2021.

ODK-Saturn workshop. Photo via United Engine Corporation
ODK-Saturn workshop. Photo via United Engine Corporation

An international competition

I line with the aims of the PD-35 project, at the All-Russian Research Institute for Aircraft Materials (VIAM) additive manufacturing was used to make a combustion chamber within 5 days, a project that would typically take around 4 months to complete.

VIAM’s general director Evgeny Kablov says, “The world now competes who will reach ideal parameters in engines. The competitiveness depends on weight, performance and design effectiveness.”

Indeed, GE has had marked success with additive manufacturing for turbines in the West. A third of the parts in its Advanced Turboprop (ATP) Engine are now 3D printed, and the 3D printing enabled LEAP engine generated $27 billion in sales at the 2017 Paris Air Show.

Kablov concludes, “[Additive technologies] helps to resolve at once issues of materials, technology and design. And all that should be integrated decisively, at development stage.”

Rostec State Corporation is also developing a UEC Based Additive Technologies Center in association with the administration of Gyeonggi province, South Korea.

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Featured image shows the PD-35 predecessor – Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine. Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin