Additive ManufacturingAerospace AMAviationCeramic Additive Manufacturing

Honeywell uses ceramic 3D printing from Prodways for its jet engines

The aerospace giant will be using a ProMaker Ceram Pro 365 to produce molds for turbine blades

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Aerospace giant Honeywell never made a secret about its use of additive manufacturing as a means to accelerate and improve jet engine development and production. The company is using AM to trim many months off the development timeline for a next-generation family of turbofan engines that could transform the future of flight. Honeywell is one of the first jet engine manufacturers to use ceramic 3D printed molds to make turbine blades. This is done via the ProMaker Ceram Pro 365 system from Prodways, at the company’s additive manufacturing center in Phoenix.

Honeywell uses ceramic 3D printing from Prodways for its jet engines via the ProMaker Ceram Pro 365 to produce molds for turbine blades
A ceramic 3D printed mold for Honeywell’s turbine blades.

“Traditionally, turbine blades are made through an investment casting process that only a few foundries in the world can handle,” said Honeywell Chief Manufacturing Engineer Brian Baughman. “It involves machining extremely complex metal dies and tooling to create ceramic molds, which are then cast with a molten superalloy to form the blades.”

Today, Honeywell is using Prodways’ vat-based high-resolution 3D printing technology to process ceramic slurry and print the molds directly. Utilizing a state-of-the-art printer developed by 3D industrial printing pioneer Prodways Group, we’ve dramatically reduced the time and cost of producing first-stage high-pressure turbine blades.

“With the conventional investment casting process, it can take one to two years to produce the turbine blades needed for the development process,” said Mike Baldwin, Principal R&D Scientist. “Additive manufacturing lets us take the design, print the mold, cast it, test it and get real numbers to validate our models – all in just seven to eight weeks. If we need to tweak the design, we can change it electronically and get another blade in about six weeks.”

Before 3D printing, even minor changes to the blade design could be very costly, he said. “Additive manufacturing enables rapid prototyping and gives us greater flexibility to accelerate development, manage costs and create the best possible product for our customers. Reducing development cycle time is our primary objective, but we also anticipate saving several million dollars in development costs compared to using the traditional blade casting process.”

In 2023, Honeywell installed Prodways’ newest MOVINGLight printer, the ProMaker Ceram Pro 365, at the additive manufacturing center in Phoenix. It’s the latest example of a deep technical collaboration that started in 2016, and has seen multiple L5000 printers added to the internal fleet of Prodways machines.

“Our 3D printers are a perfect match for this use case,” said Michaël Ohana, Prodways Group CEO. “We can process ceramic slurries to build a large number of parts in a single day and deliver consistent manufacturing results at every print.”

Additive manufacturing is ideal for producing precision components in relatively low volumes, Baughman said. “Low volumes are often a struggle since the upfront tooling cost for a turbine blade is very high and fabrication requires a long lead time. Additive manufacturing makes a lot of sense in cases like this.”

Honeywell began additive manufacturing in 2007 at the lab in Phoenix. Today, the company produces hundreds of aircraft components with 3D printing, and has expanded its industry-leading efforts to operations in China, Europe, India and across the United States.

As a leading provider of turbine propulsion engines for business aircraft, military trainers and helicopters, Honeywell is actively developing a new family of turbofan engines that will be lighter, quieter and more powerful, and able to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

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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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