GE demos world’s largest jet engine, tests 3D-printed fuel nozzles

General Electric’s aviation division is thinking big — really big– when it comes to its future jet engines. The company last week began testing the world’s largest jet engine, firing up the propulsion system that has has a whopping 18-foot-wide inlet duct. Not only is it large, the new GE9X jet engine is also cutting-edge, with 3D-printed fuel nozzles used to power GE’s most fuel-efficient jet engine to date.

The GE9X is a remarkable piece of equipment, featuring 16 carbon fiber fan blades, a combustor and turbine made with heat-resistant ceramic matrix composites, and 19 fuel nozzles that were designed and 3D printed specifically for this engine. Instead of using the traditional casting and welding to create the nozzles, GE relied on additive manufacturing to produce them, using the expertise it acquired when it bought Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing in 2012.

GE turned to 3D printing to reduce the weight of the fuel nozzles and improve their performance. The nozzles were designed with an intricate architecture that uses tunnels and caves to reduce the weight of the material, yet maintain its strength.

“These tunnels and caves are a closely guarded secret,” said Rick Kennedy, a GE Aviation spokesman. “They determine how the fuel moves through the nozzle and sprays inside the combustion chamber.”

The result is a nozzle that is 25 percent lighter and still as strong as existing nozzles. This lighter weight translates into less fuel consumption and monetary savings for airlines that incorporate this engine into their planes.

Besides a weight savings, the 3D-printed nozzles save GE time and money in manufacturing. Because they are 3D printed, the nozzles also can be manufactured at a much faster rate and with less waste than traditional nozzles, which require GE to weld up to 20 smaller pieces to form the final product. This welding process is time consuming and produces a lot of waste material, which is money lost by the company.

GE has been testing individual components in its GE9X engine over the past few years, but last week’s experimental run was the first test of the engine as a whole. The engine was tested at the company’s Peeble’s Ohio facility which was built for this large-scale testing. To complete the test, GE used two concrete stands capable of suspending the colossal engine.

The GE9X can produce up to 100,000 pounds of thrust and will be the primary engine for Boeing’s next-generation 777X jet. The engine is scheduled to enter service in 2020 with more than 700 engines collectively worth $29 billion already on order. Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, and Cathay Pacific are among the airlines planning to add the 777X jet and GE9X jet engine to their fleet of aircraft.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Cars

Thinking of opting for a car with a diesel engine? Here's what you need to know

Modern diesel-powered models prove that it is possible to build a clean, efficient diesel engine without sacrificing performance. Here's what you need to know about diesel cars, and how they differ from gasoline-powered models.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.