While the micro turbojet engine may be small – weighing only eight pounds – it remains a startling chunk of Inconel. The engine is one complete unit, which includes all stationary and rotating components.
The turbojet was designed in Creo CAD software, using Inconel as the material and an EOS 3D metal printer as the production machine. “The engine is about the size of a basketball. It would probably be used for drones,” Steve Dertien, chief technology officer at PTC, said during a presentation.
The jet engine project was the brainchild of Ronen Ben Horin, a VP of technology at PTC and a senior research fellow at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology – and Beni Cukurel, an associate professor of aerospace at Technion. Both Ronen Ben Horin and Beni Cukurel used their expertise in engineering and scientific research to design the engine.
Researchers focused on the following when designing the engine:
- The lightweight design required advanced lattice modelling and generative design to reduce material and weight while maintaining appropriate strength and performance.
- Self-supporting Geometries: This is a requirement for 3D Printing. The software has to optimize the design for printability. Creo was required to create self supporting formula driven lattices which could be paired up with printability checkers and modifiers for the design to be adjusted to printing efficiency.
- Creo is compatible with the majority of 3D printers for both printing and post processing. Creo provides a variety of formats, including 3MF, for sending 3D models to the market’s various printer technologies, while also allowing users to create associative models for machining operations. This micro-jet engine was printed with an EOS printer.
Cukurel, in a press release, acknowledged that developing the engine together with Horin culminated many years’ worth of research. The research included staying up-to-date on advances in 3D technology and design software. He said that the design is a viable method of producing micro-turbojet engines.
While this machine is not the first 3D-printed jet engine — Monash University in Australia claimed that title in 2015, and GE claimed it in 2020 – Cukurel and Horin can probably claim bragging rights for doing it as one piece.