Additive Manufacturing Application in Investment Casting for Aero and Power Turbines
Additive manufacturing sets to revolutionise the conventional investment casting process of producing blades and vanes for the power-generation gas turbines and jet engines.
Power generation gas turbine and jet-engine industries have been under pressure to increase their fuel efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. Among other measures, increasing the inlet gas temperature and pressure are the most effective solution to enhance turbine’s performance, which impacts the first-stage turbine blades.
Started in 2016, this research aims to develop commercially and technologically viable additive manufacturing solutions to be used in the investment casting of turbine blades and vanes for industrial gas turbines (IGTs) and jet-engines.
This research includes six main projects:
- Design and optimise material and printing processes of producing sacrificial casting patterns used in the investment casting.
- Design and optimise material and printing processes of producing sacrificial ceramic cores used in the investment casting of equiaxed, directional solidified, and single crystal turbine blades.
- Direct ceramic shell printing for investment casting.
- Additive manufacturing of wax injection moulds, reformers and measurement tools used in the investment casting process.
- Design a hybrid and multi-material printer for printing more complex geometries, without a need to manually detach support structures.
- Use of FEM simulation and artificial intelligence (AI) to fully model/predict shrinkages, distortions and deformations in printing, post printing and casting processes, with an aim to 3D print a pattern which arrives at nominal dimensions after the full casting process.
Our team has already made progress in the first two objectives of the project and has developed additive manufacturing solutions to produce castable patterns and ceramic cores and is now extending the results to commercial solutions for industry. The other four objectives of this research are ongoing, and progress has been made in print-to-cast deformation modelling and the design of a hybrid printer for complex ceramic core printing.
Dr Ehsan Sabet – Lecturer in Engineering Management
“This research enables turbine and jet-engine designers to explore complex geometries to enhance the performance of the turbines and reduce their carbon footprint.”