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How it All Began: The Rise of 3D Printed Jet Engines

These two jet engine brackets made from a titanium alloy came out of a 3D printer at GE Global Research last December . They were among the 10 finalists in GE’s global 3D printing challenge.

GE and the open engineering platform GrabCAD invited the maker community to design a stronger but lighter bracket used for moving jet engines that weigh nearly 13,000 pounds. The company received over 700 entries from all over the world.

GE engineers strapped each of the 10 shortlisted brackets to an MTS servo-hydraulic testing machine and exposed it to axial loads as high as 9,500 pounds.

Only one of the brackets failed. The rest advanced to a torsional test, where they were exposed to torque of 5,000 inch-pounds.

A bracket designed by  M Arie Kurniawan, an engineer from Indonesia, had the best combination of stiffness and light weight. The original bracket weighed 2,033 grams (4.48 pounds), but Kurniawan was able to reduce its weight by nearly 84 percent to just 327 grams (0.72 pounds).

Kurniawan won $7,000 in prize money. GE and GrabCAD also selected seven other design winners who will divide the balance of the $20,000 prize pool.

GE already started testing jet engines with 3D printed parts in Ohio and Winnipeg, Canada.

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