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Airbus Gets 1st Production Jet Engines With 3D-Printed Parts From CFM

The European aircraft maker Airbus received the first two production models of the LEAP-1A engine for the next-generation Airbus A320neo passenger jet on April 2. The delivery is a milestone both for Airbus and CFM International, the 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation and France’s Snecma (Safran) that developed them.

The LEAP is the first engine that includes fuel nozzles 3D-printed from a superalloy, carbon-composite fan blades woven from the ground up and parts from light- and heat-resistant ceramic materials called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). The new technologies help make the LEAP 15 percent more fuel efficient than the best engines in CFM’s portfolio and reduce its carbon emissions.

Airlines seem to love the savings. CFM has received orders for more than 10,400 LEAP engines valued at $145 billion from more than 50 global carriers.

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Top image: The first flight of a LEAP-powered Airbus A320neo. Image credit: AirbusA LEAP-1A on a test stand at GE’s jet engine testing center in Peebles, Ohio. Image credit: CFM International

CFM developed the LEAP for the booming single-aisle market. Engines from the LEAP line will also power Airbus A319neo and A321neo aircraft, as well as Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919 passenger jets.

Airbus estimates single-aisle segment will be by far the largest and fastest-growing aviation market, adding 22,900 new planes by 2034, or 70 percent of all new passenger jets.

The LEAP-1A flew for the first time on the Airbus A320neo on May 19, 2015. A second A320neo was added to the test program in September, and in February, the LEAP engine was the first to power the new A321neo. To date, the three aircraft combined have logged more than 285 flights and more than 800 hours of flight-testing.

“The next challenge is entry into service,” said Allen Paxson, executive vice president for CFM. “We have been working closely with our customers on tooling and training and have been stress-testing our support infrastructure for several months. We expect the LEAP-1A commercial introduction to be one of the smoothest we have ever had.”

Bonus reading: Did you know that GE built the first American jet engine? You can find that story here.

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

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