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Jet Engine With 3D-Printed Parts Powers Next-Gen Boeing 737 MAX For The First Time

Tomas Kellner
February 02, 2016
The latest-generation Boeing 737 MAX, powered by a pair of advanced LEAP-1B engines, made its maiden flight last Friday in Seattle. The flight lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes. “The flight was a success,” said Captain Ed Wilson, chief pilot for the 737 MAX program. “The 737 MAX just felt right in flight, giving us complete confidence that this airplane will meet our customers’ expectations.”
The LEAP is the world’s first jet engine to include 3D-printed fuel nozzles, engine shrouds made from tough, lightweight materials called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), which can operate at extremely high temperatures, and nickel-alloy compressor blades grown from a single crystal.

LEAP-1B air-to-air flying testbed Top image: The 737 MAX powered by a pair of LEAP engines during its maiden flight on Friday. Image credit: Boeing Above: The LEAP-1B program completed 300 hours of tests on GE's flying testbed in 2015. Image credit: CFM

The engine draws heavily on GE’s and Snecma’s experience in advanced aerodynamics, materials science and environmental design. The CMCs, for example, were originally developed for GE’s most efficient line of gas turbines. GE calls this cross-pollination of technologies across different industries the GE Store.

737MAX; 737MAX-8: TakeOff from Renton Field; 2016-01-29; K66500-01 The  737MAX during Friday's takeoff from Renton Field near Seattle. Image credit: Boeing

As a result, the LEAP will provide double-digit improvements in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to today’s best engine from CFM International, the GE and Snecma (Safran) joint company that developed the LEAP. It will also deliver “dramatic reductions” in engine noise and emissions, according to CFM.

FETT_LEAP-1B FETT One the two LEAP-1B engines for the first 737 MAX at an engine testing facility. Image credit: CFM

CFM began ground testing in June 2014 as part of the most extensive ground and flight test certification program in the company’s history. To date, the total LEAP development program has logged more than 8,000 hours and nearly 17,000 cycles of ground and flight testing. In 2015, using a modified 747 test bed, the LEAP-1B completed nearly 300 hours of testing — all told, more than 50 flights.

737Max; Boeing, Seattle, Renton, 737MAX First Flight, Airplane 1A001; K66500-04; Air to Air The first flight of the Boeing 737MAX. Image credit: Boeing

As of today, some 62 airlines and customers from around the world have ordered 6,144 LEAP-1B engines to power 3,072 MAX aircraft family from 62 customers. The engine orders are valued at more than $85 billion at list price.

The test flight took place on schedule. The delivery of the first Boeing 737 MAX is set for 2017.

LEAPnozzle2 The LEAP is the first jet engine with 3D-printed fuel nozzles. Image credit: GE Reports/Adam Senatori

737MAX; 737MAX-8: TakeOff from Renton Field; 2016-01-29; K66500-02 Takeoff from Renton Field. Image credit: Boeing

737MAX; 737MAX-8: Landing at Boeing Field; Seattle, WA; 2016-01-29; K66500-03 Landing at Boeing Field. Image credit: Boeing

737 MAX 1st Flight Landing at Boeing Field; 737MAX; Boeing Field: Seattle, WA; Test Pilots coming off plane; K66500-06 Boeing test pilots Craig Bomben (left) and Ed Wilson coming off the plane. Image credit: Boeing