Aerospace AMDefenseIndustrial Additive ManufacturingVTOL/eVTOL

GE’s T901 turboshaft engine will shape future of Apache helicopters

Produced with AM to achieve 50% more power and 25% better fuel consumption

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As US Army Production Engineer Mallory Smith James reported (with an excellent in-depth analysis of AM for defense production applications, published on the US Army’s official online portal), the US Army’s Aviation Turbine Engines Project Office (ATE PO) selected General Electric’s T901 turboshaft engine to replace the T700 family of engines in the H-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

As part of the same Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP), the Army has also selected the T901 for their Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) Competitive Prototype Program. The new engine is required to provide necessary additional power for the high and hot environment in which today’s aircraft platforms must operate (6,000 feet altitude and 95° Fahrenheit outside air temperature).

T901 turboshaft engine will shape the future of Apache helicopters
GE combined more than 50 separate parts that make up the T700 lubrication system B-sump into one component for T901

One of the goals of the program is to achieve 50% more power and 25% better specific fuel consumption while minimizing engine weight and cost. For this reason, GE Aviation turned to its additive manufacturing capabilities and is producing many of the engine components leveraging GE Additive‘s Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) technology.

GE combined more than 50 separate parts that make up the T700 lubrication system B-sump into one component for T901, making it 20% lighter than it would have been using conventional manufacturing. Additional benefits of AM include performance improvements, enhanced geometrical complexity, as well as development and manufacturing cycle time reductions.

GE Aviation has built up significant experience with 3D printed engine components from the over 716 million flight hours on LEAP, GE9X, and GEnx jet engines that utilize up to 300 additive components. Development takes place at the Additive Technology Center in West Chester Township, Ohio, a facility that has over 90 metal AM systems and a skilled team of designers, machinists, and engineers who develop and mature manufacturing processes that are eventually turned over to GE’s additive production facilities in Cameri, Italy and Auburn, Alabama.

In 2016, GE purchased Concept Laser and Arcam AB and formed the GE Additive division. This significant investment enabled GE to exercise more control over the critical aspects of the AM supply chain. GE utilizes two different commercially available machines to manufacture T901 components for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD).

3D printed c-sump on the Catalyst engine. It has a unique design that reduces weight while maintaining the part’s strength. The c-sump resides between the engine’s turbine & the high-pressure compressor. It is printed at GE’s Avio Aero factory in Italy.

Production of larger additive components in higher volumes is a growing priority for one of GE’s new commercial engines, the Catalyst, which like the T901 uses AM for large structural components. If the Catalyst program proceeds with their production transition in 2021-2022, they would produce additive components for approximately 300 engines per year at their Avio Aero (a GE Aviation business) facility in Brindisi, Italy.

The Catalyst transition to a high volume environment for large parts could benefit ITEP, as any learning from this transition would be applied to T901. The T901 engine is currently scheduled to start Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 and Full-Rate Production (FRP) in FY 2027 with a smaller forecasted annual production rate than Catalyst.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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