As the Army continues to modernize, improving Army aviation is one of its top priorities. One of the key supporting efforts is the development of a new turbine engine to provide next-generation power to the chosen Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft aircraft and the enduring Apache and Black Hawk fleets.
Program Executive Office for Aviation’s Aviation Turbine Engine Project Office is responsible for developing the new Improved Turbine Engine. One of the first decisions made by the design team was to incorporate additive manufacturing from the beginning of the program.
The Improved Turbine Engine Program is the one of the first programs in military aviation to understand the importance of additive manufacturing and include AM in the earliest stages of the engine design process. The ITEP is an example of how to leverage additive manufacturing from the early stages of designing and developing new technologies to deliver long-term performance, reliability, maintainability and cost savings benefits.
Additive manufacturing joins powders, liquids or plastics together based on digital models to produce three-dimensional parts. AM enables significant component piece part reduction and improved reliability while reducing cost and weight. Additional benefits of AM include performance improvements, enhanced geometrical complexity, as well as development and manufacturing cycle time reductions.
In February 2019, the Improved Turbine Engine Program selected General Electric’s T901 turboshaft engine to be the Improved Turbine Engine. With a 3,000 shaft horsepower engine, the ITE will power the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft platform, and is key to improving Black Hawk and Apache fleets’ range, payload and loiter time over the current 701D engine. The ITEP will also increase lethality by creating the capability to operate with full mission payloads in high hot (6k/95 degrees) environments, reducing fuel consumption, and improving both reliability and maintainability.
Mallory Smith James, an ITEP production engineer, recently published Additive Manufacturing and the U.S. Army’s Improved Turbine Engine, 2020. In the paper, James explores how ITEP has paved the way for new programs to incorporate additive manufacturing at the earliest stages in the design and development of new systems. She also offers a summarized history of development of AM for aviation, and discusses why the Army can benefit from ITEP’s lessons learned to better leverage additive manufacturing in future programs.
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