Singapore Airshow 2016: 3D printing of aircraft engine parts set to soar in Singapore

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Visitors to the Singapore Airshow 2016 can look forward to six aerial performances over two days by flying display teams from countries like South Korea, France and the United States. They can also get up close to the latest aircraft, experience a flight simulator ride and try their hand at virtual reality at the exhibition hall.

The fuel nozzle in an aircraft engine is a very complicated component which has 18 different parts.

Now, however, GE Aviation plans to use 3D-printing technology to manufacture it so that it is just one piece.

Such a product can be expected to last five times longer, said Mr Gopinath Logannathan, the firm's director of product marketing.

The 3D-printed nozzle was one of many innovations showcased at the fourth Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum yesterday. It was organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), as part of Singapore Airshow 2016. More than 350 delegates from leading aerospace companies worldwide attended the event, which discussed the technological future of the sector.

Local industry heavyweights ST Aerospace and SIA Engineering were also present, together with Singapore's Defence Science and Technology Agency.

Giving the opening speech at the forum, Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), said: "We are building on current capabilities to develop Singapore into a globally recognised aerospace economy, capable of providing design, engineering, production and aftermarket services for the world's major aircraft programmes."

The Committee on the Future Economy, set up by the Government last year, has also identified the aerospace sector as a key component of advanced manufacturing in Singapore.

The emerging technology of 3D printing of aircraft engine parts has been in development in Singapore for the last few years in a joint effort between Rolls-Royce and A*Star. Such technology can be used to refurbish worn turbine blades, leading to huge savings in materials and cost of production.

The authorities say there will be no let-up in efforts to push technology to its limits in Singapore.

At the official opening ceremony of Singapore Airshow 2016 yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean announced that GE Aviation will invest close to $110 million in new- generation maintenance capabilities at its Singapore facilities, as well as a new centre for advanced research and development.

And while major firms in the sector such as Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation are competitors, they are not always butting heads - and technology is an area for co-operation.

Said Professor Richard Parker, director of research & technology at Rolls-Royce Group: "Technology is where you want a common set of standards across the industry, and competition doesn't make a lot of sense."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline Singapore Airshow 2016: 3D printing of aircraft engine parts set to soar in Singapore. Subscribe