Rolls-Royce, the name is synonymous with class, luxury and prestige. The company has varied greatly from its early days, growing from the electrical and mechanical business established in 1884, through to making what many call the best car ever made (Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost) and on into becoming the leading engine manufacturing company in the world today.
However, will that title last as 3D printing is taking over the manufacturing market? The benefits of 3D printing are that it is faster, cheaper, more efficient and completely bespoke. Until now though, something as vitally important as an aircraft’s engine has not been on the list of things that a 3D printer can viably construct.
But Rolls-Royce plans to change that by taking 3D printing beyond the next level. They want to use it to manufacture parts for their engines. This will push the accuracy of 3D printing to new levels as there can be no margin at all, for even the smallest of errors. By using 3D printers for these parts, the manufacturing process will be much more streamlined. Not to mention easier for making more lightweight components. At this stage though, the prestigious company will be product testing the parts and they are still a long time off putting them into general use.
Rolls-Royce’s head of technology, Dr Henner Wapenhans said “3D printing opens up new possibilities, new design space…Through the 3D printing process you’re not constrained by having to get a tool to create a shape. You can create any shape you like.”
The parts in question that Rolls-Royce plans to start with are fuel nozzles and brackets, which can be constructed to a much lighter finish. This is due to the way 3D printing actually works, by building upon each layer. It is very early days as yet, but with faster production and greater accuracy with ceramics and metals, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know about you though, but I don’t quite trust a 3D printed fuel valve attached to a turbine engine on a Boeing 747 just yet.
[Image via gizmodo]