Safran certifies 3D printed turbine nozzle for use in helicopter engines

A metal turbine nozzle, 3D printed by French aerospace and defense company Safran (EPA:SAF), has been certified for flight by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Made from a nickel alloy, the nozzle is one of the core components inside the auxiliary power unit (APU) of a Leonardo AW189 helicopter.

Successful certification means that Safran can rollout the nozzles across other turbine models, validating 3D printing as a means of production for high-stress parts.

Fly-through of Safran’s exhibition at 2017’s Paris Air Show. Clip via Safran on YouTube

More ecofriendly, lightweight and electric performance

The 3D printed nozzle is for installation in the center of an eAPU60 turbine, designed by Safran to meet the demands of  “more-electric” and “all-electric” ecofriendly aircraft. It can operate at temperatures from -75.5 to +45 °C, simultaneously driving any starter generator and alternator combination. The electric APU also has the best power-to-weight ratio in its category, with the 3D printed nozzle bringing weight down even further.

Safran's eAPU60 turbine/ Photo by Microturbo/P. Barthe/D. Taillefer
Safran’s eAPU60 turbine/ Photo by Microturbo/P. Barthe/D. Taillefer

Speaking to Flight Global, Safran Executive Vice President François Tarel says that parts manufactured in this way are up to 35% lighter than its traditionally made equivalents, reducing component production time down to “a matter of hours or days.” 

The next step for the company is to certify the 3D printed nozzles for use in other turbines, with installation in Dassault Systèmes’ Falcon FX and Bombardier’s Global 7000 private jets expected later in 2017. The part will also be integral to the development of Safran’s hybrid APU engines, expected for launch 2019/2020.

Dassault Systèmes' Falcon FX in a splashdown test. Photo via fly-corporate
Dassault Systèmes’ Falcon FX in a splashdown test. Photo via fly-corporate

3D printed parts turn critical

Elsewhere in aviation, the EASA and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have certified GE’s LEAP engine for use with 3D printed fuel nozzles, and Boeing has installed its first ever structurally critical titanium components 3D printed by Norsk Titanium.

This week, Safran is also exhibiting at the Paris Air Show, alongside 3D printing releases from Renishaw, BeAM, Trumpf, Dassault Systemes and more.

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Featured image: A Leonardo Helicopters AW189 model that can now be installed with a turbine containing a 3D printed nozzle. Photo via Weststar Aviation Malaysia.