3D-printed gas turbine blades a breakthrough success

The blades had to endure 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1250 degrees Celsius.

Siemens has achieved a breakthrough by finishing its first full load engine tests for gas turbine blades completely produced using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology.

The company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions.

This means the components were tested at 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1250 degrees Celsius.

Siemens also tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry manufactured using the AM technology.

The tests were conducted at the Siemens testing facility in the industrial gas turbine factory in the UK.

“This is a breakthrough success for the use of Additive Manufacturing in the power generation field, which is one of the most challenging applications for this technology,” Seimens Power and Gas Division CEO Willi Meixner said.

“Additive Manufacturing is one of our main pillars in our digitalisation strategy. The successful tests were the result of a dedicated international project team with contributions from Siemens engineers in Finspång, Lincoln and Berlin together with experts from Materials Solutions.

“In just 18 months, they completed the entire chain from component design and AM material development to new methods for lifing simulations and quality controls.

“With our combined know-how in 3D printing, we will continue to drive the technological development and application in this field.”

The blades were installed in a Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine with a capacity of 13MW.

The AM turbine blades are made out of a powder of high performing polycrystalline nickel superalloy, allowing them to endure high pressure, hot temperatures and the rotational forces of the turbine’s high speed operation.

At full-load, each of these turbine blades travels more than 1600 km/h, carrys 11 tonnes, and is surrounded by gas at 1250°C and cooled by air at over 400°C.

The advanced blade design tested in Lincoln provides improved cooling features that can increase overall efficiency of the Siemens gas turbines.

“This exciting (printing) technology is changing the way we manufacture by reducing the lead time for prototype development up to 90 per cent,” Mr Meixner said.

“Siemens is a pioneer in Additive Manufacturing. We can accelerate the development of new gas turbine designs with an increased efficiency and availability and can bring these advancements faster to our customers.

“This new flexibility in manufacturing also allows Siemens to develop closer to the customer’s requirements and also to provide spare parts on demand.”