The small town of Cameri, located in between two of Italy’s most industrial cities, Milan and Turin, may not be the most appealing destination to tourists, but to those involved in additive manufacturing, it is an engineer’s playground. Avio Aero, now owned by GE Aviation, built a state-of-the-art additive manufacturing factory in tiny Cameri just over 3 years ago. Since its opening, engineers and executives from around the globe have flocked to the region to experience this revolutionary establishment. According to President and CEO of GE Aviation, David Joyce, “This factory has helped us understand what the art of the possible is with additive manufacturing…this is cutting edge.”
3D printing technology, an additive manufacturing application, is completely changing the way companies manufacture their products. Users create models on their computers and send them to a 3D printer where a part is built layer by layer. Parts of the highest complexity can easily be produced using 3D printers. Another benefit of of the technology is that they cut production times immaculately. Users also have the ability to alter the geometric shape and sizes of their models
The Cameri factory contains twenty different machines, made by Arcam, which utilize a very light, wonder material known as titanium aluminide to fuse layers together. An electron gun is used to speed up the electron beam within the printer until it reaches a power that greatly exceeds that of metal 3D printers. Dario Mantegazza, an engineer at the Cameri plant, and his coworkers have been using these machines to produce blades for the largest jet engine in the world, the GE9X. When speaking about the benefit 3D printing provides he and his colleagues, he provided “You have the ultimate manufacturing freedom…There are no limits to complexity.” After the printing of the turbine blades is complete, the parts are sent to another factory in the Pomigliano d’Arco region, near Mt. Vesuvius, for the final touches and production preparation.
Additive manufacturing has also enabled engineers to consolidate 800 parts for an advanced turboprio engine (ATP) into just a few dozen. Engineers say that this ATP engine contains more 3D printed parts than any other aircraft, with about 35 percent of parts being 3D printed. This has greatly helped to reduce the complexity of the engine which in turn has reaped some benefits. Fuel now burns 20% less and overall weight has dropped significantly while the engine’s power has increased by 10%. Production cost and time has also been reduced greatly.