August 13, 2019
If Shaquille O’Neal hoisted Kobe Bryant up to sit on his shoulders, the pair could still stand comfortably inside the fan of the new GE9X engine, the largest commercial jet engine ever built. (“Comfortably,” more or less: It’s probably still exhausting to have Bryant sitting on your shoulders.) The machine measures 11 feet in diameter, bigger than the body of an entire Boeing 737. It’s not just size that matters. Power does too — and the GE9X is also the most powerful commercial jet engine in the world, as recently certified by Guinness World Records. Efficiency also matters, and the GE9X uses advanced materials and manufacturing methods to achieve 10% greater fuel efficiency than its predecessor, the GE90. It’s one way that GE is thinking big — but it’s far from the only way.
Make no little turbines: Size is definitely a factor when it comes to wind turbines — the longer its rotor diameter, the more wind it can catch, and therefore the more energy it can generate. Right now in Holland, GE Renewable Energy is installing a prototype of the world’s largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine, the Haliade-X 12MW, which from base to blade tip measures 260 meters. That’s 1 meter taller than New York’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza tower. The offshore turbine has a similarly eye-popping onshore counterpart: the Cypress, whose 158-meter rotor helps it generate enough electricity to power 5,000 European homes. These big machines have got big fans, too. In Turkey, the renewable energy operator Borusan EnBW Enerji recently announced an order for 27 Cypress models, which will provide enough capacity to power the equivalent of 190,000 homes.
In the mood to think big? Click here for a roundup of some of GE’s most sizable tech.
Human beings have been casting tools, weapons and ornaments with wax molds for thousands of years — we’ve had plenty of time to refine our techniques. By contrast, 3D printing has only been around for a few decades. That means that, in William Carter’s estimation, its practitioners have some catching up to do. Carter’s expertise gives him some perspective: The longtime GE Research engineer has been around since the dawn of direct metal laser melting, a subset of the field now known as 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. In fact, it was Carter and his colleague Marshall Jones who, a couple of decades ago, pitched their boss at GE a unique idea. The two had observed an earlier pioneer, Carl Deckard, build simple structures out of layers of plastic powder fused together by laser. Why not try it with metal?
That’s so metal: Early experiments produced promising results, but also revealed a fundamental problem — the process took forever. Carter kept at it, though, and soon began to build a series of larger and larger parts at faster and faster speeds. He’s seen the technology mature into a crucial component of today’s manufacturing processes — for instance, GE Aviation engineers were able to use 3D printing to distill 800 components of an airplane engine into just 12 parts. And Carter is still trying to speed up the tech, currently through a collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It’s not just a matter of building a more powerful laser, he said: “If you’re watering your lawn nicely, and then you switch to a fire hose, you get a different result.”
How, then, do you build a faster 3D printer? Learn more here about the ins and outs — and past and future — of additive manufacturing.
It may not have as many fans as “Green Eggs and Ham” — let alone “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — but “The Strange Case of Adlebert Blump” is, nonetheless, an early Dr. Seuss original. Before he became an iconic children’s author, the artist also known as Theodor Geisel was an adman for GE, who created Blump for publication in the G-E Merchandiser, a publication targeting prospective retailers. He’s just one beloved American artist to have walked the halls of the venerable American company. GE also worked with the likes of Norman Rockwell, Kurt Vonnegut and Rockwell Kent.
Art form and function: Kent, for instance, created art for GE’s immensely popular Edison Mazda Lamp Calendar, which the company published from 1918 to 1934, while Rockwell made illustrations for a 1920s series advertising the company’s Mazda electric lamps, and Vonnegut honed his storytelling skills as a publicist at GE’s Schenectady Works in New York. The nexus between industry and creativity flows in many directions, with at least one GE creation doubling as an art piece: the sinuous fan blade made for the company’s GE90-115B jet engine. It’s included in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, whose catalog says the blade’s “astonishingly beautiful undulating form is a pure expression of its aerodynamic function.”
Learn more here about the decades-old love affair between artists and GE.
1. Stopping Cancer In Its Tracks
Researchers at The Ohio State University say that low-intensity electromagnetic fields might hinder the spread of breast cancer cells to other parts of the body.
2. Solar Airfield
In Tennessee, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport became the first airport in the U.S. to generate enough solar power to completely meet its energy needs.
3. The Call Is Coming From Inside The House
Some people spotted a saucer-shaped flying object, but it wasn’t exactly unidentified: It was a 4-foot functional prototype designed by a pair of Romanian engineers, who say their spooky-looking machine is “natural born for supersonic flight.”
Read more about this week’s Coolest Things on Earth here.
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“Investment casting has undergone 5,000 years of development. Additive manufacturing is now only about 30 to 40 years old. We’ve got to catch up fast.”
— William Carter, engineer at GE Research
Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE Renewable Energy.
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