TurboTime Podcast: Additive Manufacturing with the Myth Busters

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What’s the history of additive manufacturing, how is it used to manufacture turbomachines, and does it really have a future in the turbo industry? Find out more from the Myth Busters in this episode of the TurboTime Podcast.

Myth Busters Klaus Brun and Rainer Kurz join the TurboTime podcast to chat about additive manufacturing. They dive into its history in the industry, its advantages as a viable technology, its limitations, and new advancements that could drive the technology further.

Brun explained: “About 40 years ago, additive manufacturing technology started coming out based on using materials such as polymers and resins that were heated up and layered on top of each other using some kind of robotic arm or plotter that in the 3D space. It wasn’t all that relative from a turbomachinery perspective at the time because yes, you could use that to make a mold for a cast, but other than that, it wasn’t realistic. About 20 years ago, we started seeing additive manufacturing using metals. There are a number of techniques, but the most popular ones are direct metal sintering or selective metal-laser sintering—these techniques are when you have a layer of metal and a heat source, and you put the heat source on the powder-metal layer to create a 3D geometry in 3D space. That technique has developed over the last 20 years—it came out with lots and lots of promises, some of which held up while other promises didn't hold up."

“From a turbomachinery perspective, there are many parts in a compressor, for example, or a gas or steam turbine, that are relatively standard pieces; you would probably not use additive manufacturing for those pieces because they're always the same, so you would cast them or quickly machine them. But then there are certain pieces that are either very intricate in geometry, so they require many smaller pieces to be put together or that are customized like impellers for centrifugal compressors. So here, theoretically, additive manufacturing should have an advantage because additive manufacturing provides you with the potential to build customer parts.”