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Engine With 3D-Printed Parts Powers 3 Next-Gen Jets

Tomas Kellner
February 16, 2016
The Airbus A321neo passenger plane has become the third next-generation aircraft to complete a maiden flight with LEAP engines on wing. The LEAP is the first engine that includes both 3D-printed parts and components from advanced ceramic materials that can handle higher temperatures than even the most advanced alloys but weigh just one-third what steel does. These and other new technologies will make it 15 percent more fuel-efficient, quieter and easier to maintain compared to current engines made by CFM International, the company that developed the LEAP.
737MAX; 737; Boeing; 737MAX first flight; air to air; K66500-05 CFM has received orders for more than 10,000 LEAP engines, valued at $140 billion. Top image: The first LEAP-powered A321neo is landing in Hamburg. Image credit: Airbus Above: The Boeing 737 MAX during its maiden flight: Image credit: Boeing

CFM is a 50-50 joint company between GE and France’s Snecma (Safran), and the LEAP is the best-selling jet engine in its history. CFM has received orders for more than 10,000 engines, valued at $140 billion.

The plane took off from Hamburg, Germany, and landed five and a half hours later. “We have confirmed that the engine is meeting its performance specifications,” said Jean-Paul Ebanga, president and CEO of CFM.

CFM started developing the LEAP in the last decade specifically for the single-aisle-aircraft market. Boeing estimates this will be by far the largest and fastest-growing market, expanding from 14,100 planes today to 30,600 in 2034.

First-LEAP-powered-A320neo-takes-to-the-skies The first Airbus A320neo powered by LEAP engines completed its maiden flight in May 2015. Image credit: Airbus

There are three versions of the LEAP engine: LEAP-1A for the Airbus A320neo family (which also includes A319neo and A321neo), LEAP-1B for Boeing 737 MAX and LEAP-1C for the COMAC C919.

The first Boeing 737 MAX flight took place two weeks ago. The first Airbus A320neo powered by LEAP engines completed its maiden flight in May 2015.

The LEAP-1A received joint U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency certification in November 2015, and the first LEAP is scheduled to enter commercial service later this year.

There are currently more than 30 LEAP engines (all three models) going through tests at GE and Snecma testing facilities in Peebles, Ohio; Victorville, California; and elsewhere in Europe and around the world. The testing program has logged a total of more than 8,400 certification test hours and 18,100 test cycles.

In 2015, the FAA certified the first 3D-printed part for a GE jet engine — a casing that houses the compressor inlet temperature sensor.