Until now, blades for gas turbines were either cast or forged. The casting of turbine blades requires complex mold construction before each blade can be individually cast – a complex, time-consuming, and costly procedure. Additive manufacturing changes all this. With AM, a laser beam is directed at fine layers of metal powder, which are heated and melted. When the laser is removed, the metal cools. The process is repeated layer by layer until the blade model from the 3D printer is finished. Thanks to additive manufacturing, the team was able to reduce the period of time from the design of a new gas turbine blade to its production from two years to two months.
“Exciting AM technology changes the way we produce. Using this technology, we can develop prototypes up to 90 percent faster,” says Meixner. “Siemens is a pioneer in the field of additive manufacturing. We’re speeding up the development of new gas turbines with higher efficiency levels and increased availability and can thus deliver these improvements to our customers faster. The new flexibility in production allows us to more precisely tailor development to our customers’ requirements and deliver individual spare parts on demand.”