Siemens 3D-prints natural gas turbine blades

The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions

Feb 6th, 2017
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Siemens finished its first full load engine tests for gas turbine blades completely produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology — commonly known as 3D printing.

The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions. This means the components were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, Siemens tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry manufactured using the AM technology. The project team used blades manufactured at its 3D printing facility at Materials Solutions, the newly acquired company in Worcester, UK.

Materials Solutions specializes in high performance parts for high temperature applications in turbomachinery where accuracy, surface finish and the materials quality is critical to ensure operational performance of the parts in service. The tests were conducted at the Siemens testing facility in the industrial gas turbine factory in Lincoln, UK.

The blades were installed in a Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine with a capacity of 13 MW. The AM turbine blades are made out of a powder of high performing polycrystalline nickel superalloy, allowing them to endure high pressure, hot temperatures and the rotational forces of the turbine’s high speed operation. At full load each of these turbine blades is travelling at over 1,600 km/h, carrying 11 tons or equivalent to a fully loaded London bus, is surrounded by gas at 1,250 °C and cooled by air at over 400 °C. The advanced blade design tested in Lincoln provides improved cooling features that can increase overall efficiency of the Siemens gas turbines.

Additive Manufacturing is a process that builds parts layer-by-layer from sliced CAD models to form solid objects. Also known as ‘3D printing’ it especially provides benefits in rapid prototyping.

Siemens has a broad knowledge in essential areas like materials sciences, automation, manufacturing and process know how and is thus in a great position to shape the future in the 3D printing industry. The successful test of the advanced blade design is the next step in order to use the full potential of AM. Siemens is developing unique gas turbine designs which are only possible with AM and extends its serial production for printed turbine equipment. With an experience of more than 100 years in the energy market, Siemens converts the new design possibilities to specific solutions for its customers.

Siemens extensively uses AM technology for rapid prototyping and has already introduced serial production solutions for components in the gas turbines’ compressor and combustion system. In February 2016 Siemens opened a new production facility for 3D printed components in Finspång, Sweden. The first 3D printed component for a Siemens heavy-duty gas turbine is in commercial operation since July 2016.

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